To Amend or Not To Amend

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Since 2004, there have been 26 amendments proposed to the state constitution and all of them have passed. Last Saturday, there were four new amendments for voters to cast either for or against. Experts probably thought it a forgone conclusion that these amendments would make their way into the constitution –after all, they involved police pay, retirement systems and adding

one word to the definition of artwork –and they would have been wrong.

The first three amendments did get the voter’s approving nod: increases in police and firefighters’ supplemental pay are now constitutionally protected; waterway and riverfront police and port authority firefighters are now eligible for supplemental pay and funding for an increase in certain state retirement systems must first be identified before the raise can occur.

But voters just wouldn’t agree to add the word “jewelry” to the category of artwork. In 2006, an amendment passed that gave a property tax exemption to any artwork that was placed on consignment with a dealer for sale. Once the work, which was considered anything that was the material result of a creative endeavor, sold then sales tax would be collected. The 2006 amendment specified these creative endeavors to include sculptures, glass works, paintings, specific kinds of posters, photographs, mixed media and collages.

It didn’t mention “jewelry.” So if you made these really cool earrings out of old roofing nails (there was a steady supply of nails available) and placed them on consignment with jewelry store, you just might have had to pay property tax. And after Saturday’s voting response, you still will.

Or maybe not.

The Public Affairs Research (PAR) Council put out a guide explaining the 2007 proposed amendments. When they got around to Amendment Four and adding “jewelry” to the definition of artwork, they explained that they weren’t even sure “whether property tax on consigned jewelry has ever been assessed by local entities.” PAR wasn’t even sure if any money ever was made from taxes on consigned jewelry.

So there you have it. Louisianans are in favor of anything that raises the pay of cops, firefighters and they think it’s a pretty good idea for the Legislature to figure out how they’re going to pay for a retirement system increase before they go ahead and vote in favor of it. But when it comes to considering jewelry to be artwork and eliminating the vast phantom sums of property tax money that’s derived when the jewelry is placed on consignment, enough is enough!

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