Louisiana’s Act 486 of 2018, effective August 1, 2018, changes state open meeting notification requirements when such meetings involve action on certain proposed taxes. The amendment relaxes a burdensome advance notice requirement relating to voter approval of taxes and the required procedure to actually levy local sales and property taxes.
What does current law require?
Louisiana's Open Meetings Law, specifically R.S. 42:19.1, currently requires the governing authorities of a political subdivision to take three actions if it plans to levy, renew or increase a property tax or sales tax, or if it proposes to call an election on levying, renewing or increasing such a tax:
- An announcement at a public meeting that the public body plans to levy, renew or increase a tax or call an election for that purpose,
- The one-time publication of a notice to the same effect, and
- The written notification of all state legislators who represent the area affected by the proposed tax or election to the same effect.
These actions must be taken between 30 and 60 days prior to the date of the tax levy or election call, but do not apply to the levy of hotel occupancy taxes, service charges, parcel fees or other kinds of taxes.
Governing authorities affected by the amendments
City and parish councils, school boards, police juries, and boards of commissioners of other taxing bodies — including water and sewer districts, fire districts, port commissions and other similar units of local government — should be aware of these changes.
Documentation of notification efforts is important for governing authorities, and it's important for entities thinking about calling an election or levying a tax to be aware of the requirements and particularly the need to build the extra time needed to comply with R.S. 42:19.1, as amended by Act 486, into their timeline.
Changes made by Act 486 amendments
Specifically, the amendments change the notification period for the three required actions listed above to include the period between 20 days (instead of 30 days) and 60 days prior to the actual public meeting at which the election will be called, or the sales or property tax levied, renewed or increased.
Expanding the window for the three required actions by only 10 days may seem inconsequential, but for the many governing bodies that meet just once monthly, or have official journals that publish only weekly, the change will be very helpful.
Also, the three required actions no longer need to be taken prior to the first levy of a new or increased tax that has already been authorized by an election. Instead, they must only be taken prior to the adoption of the election call resolution, or the actual tax levy when an election is not required.