Stories about Louisiana

Louisiana to hold special elections July 11

Ballotpedia will be covering three special elections on July 11 in Louisiana. Offices on the ballot include a state House seat located in the Jefferson and Lafourche parishes and two judicial positions in Baton Rouge. A general election is scheduled on August 15, 2020, in case no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the special primary election. Early voting for the July 11 election ends at 6 p.m. on July 4.

In state House District 54, six candidates are running to replace Reggie Bagala (R). James Cantrelle (R), Dave Carskadon (R), Kevin Duet (R), Phil Gilligan (R), Donny Lerille (R), and Joseph Orgeron (R) are facing off in the election. Bagala died on April 9 from coronavirus-related health complications. He was first elected to the position in 2019 with 58.2% of the vote.

Baton Rouge is holding special elections for the Division C seat on the City Court and for the Division M-Section 2 seat on the state’s 19th Judicial District Court. The special primary election was originally scheduled to take place on April 4, with a general to be held May 9, if necessary. The dates were moved amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Greg Cook (D), Donald Dobbins (D), Whitney Greene (R), Jonathan Holloway, Sr. (D), and Johnell Matthews (D) will face off in the special primary election for the vacant City Court seat. The special election became necessary when Judge Tarvald Smith vacated the seat after being elected to the 19th Judicial District Court in 2019.

Yvette Alexander (D), Tiffany Foxworth (D), Eboni Johnson-Rose (D), and Jennifer Moisant (D) are running in the special primary election for the Division M-Section 2 seat on the 19th Judicial District Court. The special election became necessary when Judge Beau Higginbotham vacated the seat after being elected to the Division C-Section 3 seat on the 19th Judicial District Court in 2019.

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Conflict over unclaimed property revenue in Louisiana leads to constitutional amendment on November ballot

In November 2020, Louisiana voters will decide a constitutional amendment designed to resolve a conflict between Governor John Bel Edwards (D) and State Treasurer John Schroder (R) regarding the state’s unclaimed property revenue. If approved, the amendment would do the following:

• Create the Unclaimed Property (UCP) Permanent Trust Fund, with the fund earmarked for payment of claims made by owners of abandoned property
• Allocate funds above administrative costs received due to the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act of 1997 (or its successor) to the UCP Permanent Trust Fund until equal to the state’s estimated unclaimed property potential liability
• Allocate any additional unclaimed property receipts above the state’s potential liability and any investment revenue from the UCP Permanent Trust Fund to the state’s general fund
• Authorize the treasurer to invest up to 50% of the UCP Permanent Trust Fund in equities

The Uniform Disposition of Property Act was passed in Louisiana in 1972. From 1972 to 2019, the state treasurer collected $1.3 billion in unclaimed property—such as abandoned bank accounts, IRAs, and 401(k) accounts; unclaimed pensions, Social Security benefits; unredeemed U.S. Savings Bonds; and uncollected insurance proceeds and utility deposits. From this, $463 million was remitted according to claims by the owners of the formerly unclaimed property. The remaining revenue was transferred to the state’s general fund, except for a certain amount transferred to the I-49 Leverage fund. In the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, State Treasurer John Schroder did not transfer $32.5 million in unclaimed property revenue above the amount remitted to claimants to the general fund, saying the money did not belong to the state and should be kept in case its rightful owners come forward.

In February 2020, Gov. Edwards sued Schroder, requesting the court to order the treasurer to transfer the $32.5 million to the general fund. On May 26, 2020, District Court Judge Richard Moore, III, ruled in favor of Gov. Edwards. Schroder said he would appeal the ruling. Edwards and Schroder agreed to a deal, however, that included (a) Schroder releasing the $32.5 million and an estimated $25 million for the following fiscal year and (b) this constitutional amendment to establish a permanent fund for unclaimed property revenue starting in July 2021.

Senator Michael Fesi (R) introduced the constitutional amendment as Senate Bill 12 on June 4, 2020. On June 25, 2020, the state House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 12 in a vote of 95-3, with six absent. On June 26, 2020, the state Senate concurred with the House amendments in a vote of 35-0, with four absent.

This amendment joins six others put on the November 2020 ballot by the Louisiana Legislature during the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions. From 1995 through 2019, Louisiana voters decided 189 constitutional amendments. During even-numbered years, there were 121 constitutional amendments. An average of 10 measures appeared on even-year statewide ballots, with the total number ranging from four to 21. Louisiana voters approved 75% (141 of 189) and rejected 25% (48 of 189) of constitutional amendments since 1995.

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Louisiana parishes to vote on sports betting in November

On June 12, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed Senate Bill 130 (SB 130) that will ask the voters in each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes whether or not to authorize sports betting within the parish. If a majority of voters in a parish support authorizing sports betting, sports betting would be allowed in the parish after state laws are passed providing for the regulation of such activities.

In Louisiana, a simple majority vote in both chambers of the state legislature is required to refer a statutory measure to the ballot. The governor’s signature is also required to refer the measure. Senator Cameron Henry (R-9) introduced SB 130 on February 25, 2020. The Louisiana State Senate passed the bill in a vote of 29-8 on May 13, 2020. The Louisiana House of Representatives passed the bill on May 17, 2020, in a vote of 71-23 with nine representatives absent.

In 2018, the legislature sent a similar set of parish measures legalizing fantasy sports to the ballot. Forty-seven (47) of the 64 parishes approved the measures, and 17 parishes defeated the measure.

In November 2020, Maryland voters will decide on the Sports Betting Expansion Measure that would authorize sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities with state revenue intended to fund public education. Voters in Deadwood, South Dakota will also be voting on a measure that would legalize sports betting within the city limits. As of May 2020, 22 states had passed laws legalizing sports betting.

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Murphy v. NCAA that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting, thereby overturning the federal ban on sports betting (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or PASPA) and allowing states to legalize sports betting.

The Louisiana State Legislature has also certified six statewide constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The topics of the amendments include abortion, state government finances, taxes, and natural resources.

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New Louisiana Superintendent of Education assumes office

The new Louisiana state superintendent of education, Dr. Cade Brumley, started with the Department of Education on Monday, June 8. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education first appointed Brumley to the position on May 20, 2020, and the Louisiana State Senate confirmed his nomination on June 1.

Brumley replaces former superintendent John White, who resigned from the position in March 2020. Beth Scioneaux, the Deputy Superintendent for Management and Finance at the Department of Education, served as interim superintendent from March until June.

The education superintendent position, which is nonpartisan, is one of twelve state-level executive offices that Ballotpedia covers in Louisiana. Of the other nine individual state executive offices, two are nonpartisan, six are held by Republicans, and one–the governor’s office–is occupied by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Republican Party holds a majority on both the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and on the state Public Service Commission.

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Louisiana Legislature sends five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot and a sports betting measures to the governor’s desk

The Louisiana State Legislature adjourned its 2020 regular session on June 1, 2020, and immediately started a special session to consider the state’s annual budget bill for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

During the 2020 regular session, the state legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot for voter approval or rejection:

  • House Bill 267 would allow the Louisiana State Legislature, through a two-thirds vote in each chamber, to use up to one-third of the revenue in the Budget Stabilization Fund to cover the state’s costs associated with a federally-declared disaster.
  • Senate Bill 272 would authorize a property tax exemption for property that is subject to an agreement with local government and would allow certain property owners to make payments instead of paying property taxes.
  • House Bill 360 would allow the presence or production of oil or gas to be taken into account when assessing the fair market value of an oil or gas well for ad valorem property tax purposes.
  • House Bill 464 would change the state’s expenditures limit growth formula.
  • House Bill 525 would increases the income limit from $50,000 to $100,000 for those who qualify for the special assessment level for residential property receiving the homestead exemption.

The state legislature also passed Senate Bill 130, which would ask the voters in each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes whether to authorize sports betting within the parish. If a majority of voters in the parish support authorizing sports betting, sports betting would be allowed in the parish after state laws are passed providing for the regulation of such activities. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) is expected to sign the bill, which would then place a referendum on the ballot in each parish.

The legislature referred one other constitutional amendment to the November 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. It would add language to the Louisiana Constitution stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

From 1995 through 2018, 185 constitutional amendments were placed on the ballot by the state legislature. About 10 constitutional amendments were on the ballot in Louisiana during even-numbered years. A total of 139 of the measures (75%) were approved and 46 of the measures (25%) were defeated.

State legislative special elections scheduled in Louisiana, Washington

A new state legislative special election has been added to our list. The special election is for the District 54 seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives on July 11, 2020. There is no primary, and the filing deadline was on May 22.

A new state legislative special election has been added to our list. The special election is for the District 38 seat in the Washington State Senate on November 3, 2020. The primary is on August 4, and the filing deadline was on May 15.

Louisiana to lift stay-at-home order, reopen select businesses on May 15

Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) unveiled the “Roadmap to a Resilient Louisiana” reopening plan, the first phase of which is set to take effect on May 15, 2020. Under the plan, the following businesses will be permitted to reopen at 25% capacity at that time: gyms and fitness centers; barber shops and hair/nail salons; gaming establishments; theaters; racetracks (no spectators); museums, zoos, and aquariums (no tactile exhibits); and bars and breweries with food permits.

Edwards also announced that he would not renew the stay-at-home order, which expires May 15. Individuals, particularly those belonging to high-risk groups, will still be encouraged to stay home. Individuals who do go out in public will be encouraged to wear facial coverings, practice good hygiene, and maintain six feet of distance from others. For businesses, employees who interact with the public must wear facial coverings and enforce social distancing guidelines. Gaming establishments must register and obtain approval before reopening. No other business owners will be required to do so.

SCOTUS issues opinions in three cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions in three cases on April 20 during its October 2019 term.

1. Ramos v. Louisiana originated from the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and was argued on October 7, 2019. It concerned the right to a unanimous verdict in a jury trial.

  • The issue: “Whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict?”
  • The outcome: The court reversed the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in a 6-3 ruling, holding “if the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less in state court.” In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a 1972 SCOTUS case, Apodaca v. Oregon.

2. Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian originated from the Montana Supreme Court and was argued on December 3, 2019. It concerned the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980.

  • The issues:
    • “Whether a common-law claim for restoration seeking cleanup remedies that conflict with EPA-ordered remedies is a “challenge” to EPA’s cleanup jurisdictionally barred by § 113 of CERCLA.
    • Whether a landowner at a Superfund site is a “potentially responsible party” that must seek EPA’s approval under CERCLA § 122(e)(6) before engaging in remedial action, even if EPA has never ordered the landowner to pay for a cleanup.
    • Whether CERCLA preempts state common-law claims for restoration that seek cleanup remedies that conflict with EPA-ordered remedies.”
  • The outcome: The court affirmed in part and vacated in part the Montana Supreme Court’s decision and remanded the case. In a 7-2 ruling, the court held the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to rule that “the landowners were not potentially responsible parties under the Act and thus did not need EPA approval to take remedial action.”

3. Thryv, Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies, LP originated in the Federal Circuit and was argued before the court on December 9, 2019. It concerned judicial review of agency decisions.

  • The issue: “Whether 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) permits appeal of the [Patent Trial and Appeal Board]’s decision to institute an inter partes review upon finding that § 315(b)’s time bar did not apply.”
  • The outcome: The court vacated and remanded the Federal Circuit’s decision in a 7-2 ruling. The court held that the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) prevents courts from reviewing certain agency processes related to patents. It held that courts may not review the interpretation of a law governing time limits for certain patent reviews made by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

U.S. Supreme Court overturns Oregon ballot measure from 1932 that enacted non-unanimous jury verdicts

On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon ballot measure from 1932 in its ruling on Ramos v. Louisiana. In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on a 10 to 12 jury verdict. He appealed his conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his conviction by a non-unanimous jury violated his federal constitutional rights. The court of appeal affirmed Ramos’ conviction and sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and in a 6-3 decision, the Court held that “if the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less in state court.”

In 1932, Oregon voters passed Measure 2, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, with 58 percent of the vote. The measure allowed non-unanimous verdicts in all criminal trials, except first-degree murder trials. It also provided that in criminal trials any accused person, with the consent of the trial judge, may waive trial by a jury and consent in writing to be tried by the judge alone. In the published voting guide, state legislators in favor of the amendment argued that it would “prevent one or two jurors from controlling the verdict.”

Oregon and Louisiana were the last two states to allow non-unanimous verdicts. Between 1812 and 1898, the state of Louisiana required unanimous juries to convict persons for felonies in state criminal trials. In 1898, Louisiana held a state constitutional convention, which resulted in an amendment to allow 9-3 verdicts for serious felonies. In 1973, Louisiana held another state constitutional convention, which increased the requirement for non-unanimous verdicts from 9-3 to 10-2. In 2018, Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2 with 64 percent of the vote. It was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that required the unanimous agreement of the jurors to convict people charged with felonies.

In its decision, the Supreme Court explained that the enactment of non-unanimous jury verdicts in Oregon and Louisiana was a product of racism. Writing the majority opinion for the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “Courts in both Louisiana and Oregon have frankly acknowledged that race was a motivating factor in the adoption of their States’ respective nonunanimity rules.”

Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Elena Kagan dissented. In his dissenting opinion, Alito argued against overturning precedent established by Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), which ruled that the Sixth Amendment required unanimous juries to convict persons in federal criminal trials but that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the requirement of unanimous juries to state criminal trials. He argued that overruling Apodaca would cause “a potential tsunami of litigation.” The Court’s majority acknowledged the potential number of cases challenging non-unanimous jury verdicts but determined that it did not justify withholding the Sixth Amendment’s protections to state criminal trials.

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