10/1/2018 - Early voting will be beginning October 15, and you will see five Constitutional amendments on the ballot. As your State Representative, I feel I should try to give you a fair and balanced explanation of the proposed amendments. Over the next few weeks I will go over them and give you the facts about what they will do, who was for the amendment, and who was against them. Of course if you have a question, please contact me.
First, bills like these work as any Legislative bill does. We have an idea and get our legislative counsel to create the legal language and present it to the appropriate committee, where they can then amend it or not. The bill then goes to the floor for a vote. To pass a normal bill in the House and Senate and to go to the Governor, the bill has to have a simple majority. A constitutional amendment is different. It must have a two-thirds supermajority vote in both the Georgia State Senate and the Georgia House of Representatives.
These bills may have accompanying legislation under different bill numbers that are the guts of how they will work.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office has also created a booklet describing each proposal, and a summary is available online as well as at the state’s probate courts. To request a printed version in the mail, call the Secretary of State’s Office at 404-656-2881 or email email@example.com.
Amendment 1 — Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Sales Tax Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund Amendment
This would give the state the authority to dedicate “up to” 80% of the existing sales and use tax on outdoor sporting goods to be used for land conservation. The key word is “existing,” as there is not a tax increase in this amendment but a redirection of how dollars are spent. The “up to” 80% language means the legislature is not required to allocate the tax money but can allocate up to that percentage.
The funds would be used to support state parks and trails, provide stewardship of conservation lands, and acquire land for the provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, fishing, military installation buffering, or outdoor recreation. These initiatives would be carried out by creating the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, which would be handled by the state. House Bill 332 is the details of how it would work.
It will appear on the ballot as follows:
Without increasing the current state sales tax rate, shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to conserve lands that protect drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; to protect and conserve forests, fish, wildlife habitats, and state and local parks; and to provide opportunities for our children and families to play and enjoy the outdoors, by dedicating, subject to full public disclosure, up to 80 percent of the existing sales tax collected by sporting goods stores to such purposes without increasing the current state sales tax rate?
VOTING YES means you support allowing the state to authorize up to 80% of the sales tax for outdoor goods for conservation.
VOTING NO means you oppose support allowing the state to authorize up to 80% of the sales tax for outdoor goods for conservation.
The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition is one of the main sponsors of this amendment. Members are The Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Park Pride and other similar groups.
Opponents of the amendment say it doesn’t go far enough or have enough enforcement teeth to require the money actually be used for conservation. It simply allows the state to send the money to the fund if it chooses.
Amendment 2 – Business Court Creation
Amendment 2 would create a new court system in the state of Georgia, specifically for businesses for use under certain circumstances. The judges in the business court would be appointed by the Governor, approved by a majority vote of the Senate and House judiciary committees, and serve a term of five years. Judges could be reappointed for any number of terms under the measure. This is based on a pilot court operating in Fulton and Gwinnett counties. House Resolution 993 has the details of which types of cases the court would handle and the how the court would work.
It will appear on the ballot as follows:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create a state-wide business court, authorize superior court business court divisions, and allow for the appointment process for state-wide business court judges in order to lower costs, improve the efficiency of all courts, and promote predictability of judicial outcomes in certain complex business disputes for the benefit of all citizens of this state?
VOTING YES means you support amending the Constitution to authorize the state to create a state business court and would set the rules, term length, and qualifications of the court.
VOTING NO means you oppose amending the Constitution to authorize the state to create a state business court which would appoint judges by way of the Governor, set the rules, term length, and qualifications of the court.
This Amendment was sponsored by the Governor’s floor leaders and others. Governor Nathan Deal told WABE, “A constitutionally created business court would provide an efficient and dependable forum for litigants in every corner of our state.” This is a measure that was part of his Court Reform Council in his earlier years as Governor. The amendment has the support of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Georgians for Lawsuit Reform.
Opponents of the House Resolution were concerned that the Judges were appointed and not elected as our Superior Court judges are.
Well, I think two amendments are all I can do this week, as I am at 1000 words already... I know some may want a paper copy of the real bill that these two amendments come from if you don't have Internet. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at home: 770-893-2039; Capitol: 404-656-7857, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or 401 State Capitol; Atlanta, GA 30334