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Louisiana municipalities secure victory against state mandated costs.

Louisiana voters gave their municipalities a major victory October 19 with easy approval of a constitutional amendment that limits the state's ability to impose mandated requirements and costs on local governments.

Unofficial returns at press time show the proposal, which was the first of eight on the ballot, won by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. In addition, the proposition won with the highest voter approval rate of the five amendments which passed.

The state's mayors and elected municipal and local officials were instrumental in gaining voter approval of the measure, noted Louisiana Municipal Association President Ralph J. Stutes, mayor of Rayne.

"Fueled by frustrations voiced by mayors and other local leaders in the press and during public appearances, the state's voters apparently believed local governments are overburdened by requirements and costs forced on them by the state," Mayor Stutes explained.

Effective January 1, 1992, a state law, executive order, rule, or regulation requiring additional expenditures by a local government can only become effective if one of the following occurred:

[Section] the local government agrees to abide with the mandate;

[Section] the state provides funds to pay for the new mandate;

[Section] the state gave the local government authority to raise revenue to cover the cost of the new mandate; or

[Section] the legislature voted to impose a new mandate or cost on local governments by a two-thirds vote of both houses.

The new constitutional amendment does not apply to loal school systems, to existing mandates, to laws requested by individual political subdivisions, to benefits for police officers and firefighters found in existing law, to laws defining or amending a new crime, or to laws or rules required for compliance with federal standards (such as those mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

State Rep. Francis C. Thompson of Delhi and State Sen. Willie E. Crain of Rayville, lead authors of the legislation, said local leaders had complainied about a growing tendency at the state level to hand local governments new responsibilities while refusing to give them the funds to pay for the new costs or the power to raise needed revenues locally.

"This constitutional amendment definitely will force greater accountability on the legislature," Rep. Thompson emphasized, noting that 61 legislators signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation, the LMA's highest priority issue the past few years.

To help local officials promote the proposed constitutional amendment, LMA developed a voter education and public information booklet which contained a sample resolution of support, news releases, sample newspaper editorial, sample letter to the editor, a public-appearance script, and a fact sheet. The booklet was sent to all mayors about one month before the election.

The LMA's executive board and membership had unanimously endorsed the proposed constitutional amendment at the league's convention at Lake Charles in mid-August. The convention also provided the official kickoff for the public information campaign, since the league named both Rep. Thompson and Sen. Crain as its "Legislator of the Year."

In addition, Mayor Stutes and National League of Cities President Sidney J. Barthelemy, mayor of New Orleans, were among the local government leaders who participated in a press club briefing in Baton Rouge to give the campaign statewide focus. These efforts led to endorsements of the proposition by virtually all of the state's major daily newspapers.

"All of our communications to voters and the press were designed to illustrate how passage of this amendment would help keep local tax dollars local and enable local elected officials to be more responsive to local priorities and needs," Mayor Stutes said.

"We believe the success of our campaign also resulted in an increased awareness by citizens of the problems which their local governments must tackle on a day-to-day basis," Mayor Stutes added.

Tommy Darensbourg is director of communications for the Louisiana Municipal Association.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on New Orleans vote on term limitations
Author:Darensbourg, Tommy
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Oct 28, 1991
Previous Article:Oakland fire-loss cost soaring past quake figures: death toll at 22, some 2,400 homes destroyed.
Next Article:Wisconsin league's conference pushes issues of local control.

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