10/7/2018 - Early voting will begin 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 amendments, and who was against them. Of course if you have a question, please contact me.
This article is for Amendments 3 and 4; 1 and 2 were in last week’s paper. If you need a copy, please contact me. Thanks for all the kind comments this week for writing this overview. I thank the newspaper for printing it.
Amendment 3 – Forest Land and Timberland Conservation and Timberland Properties Amendment
Amendment 3 would remove the constitutional requirement that the Georgia State Legislature use a "formula based on current use, annual productivity, and real property sales data" to calculate the tax on forest land conservation use property (FLCUP).
Amendment 3 would authorize the legislature to create a new class of property, titled timberland property, for tangible real property used for growing trees for commercial timber. The legislature would develop an ad valorem taxation assessment for timberland property.
Amendment 3 will appear on the ballot as follows:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?
VOTING YES means you support allowing the legislature to change the formula used to calculate the tax on forest land conservation use property and create a new land designation for commercial timberland. This also allows the state to establish a percentage of local grant assistance funding that could be retained by the state for administration.
VOTING NO means you oppose allowing the legislature to change the formula used to calculate the tax on forest land conservation use property and create a new land designation for commercial timberland.
The bill is supported by the Georgia Forestry Commission and Governor Deal. Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), a primary sponsor of Amendment 3 in the legislature, said, "Our private forest owners are consistently supporting our state's economy and environment, using their own resources. This legislation helps to address several issues in the conservation use assessment of timberland to create a fair system for forest landowners while maintaining funding for counties throughout the state."
I didn't see any opposition to the legislation.
The implementing legislation is HB 85 if you want to know how this will actually work.
Amendment 4 – Marsy’s Law Crime Victim’s Rights
Amendment 4, known as Marsy’s Law, addresses rights of victims of crime. It is part of a national effort to add additional rights and privileges for victims of crime. You may have seen this advertised on TV and online.
The amendment allows, upon request, crime victims to have specific rights, including the right to be treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect;” the right to notice of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving that release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights. The amendment also explicitly stated that the legislature was able to further define, expand, and provide for the enforcement of the rights.
Amendment 4 will appear on the ballot as follows:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?
VOTING YES means you support adding more rights of victims of crimes to the State Constitution, known as Marsy’s Law.
VOTING NO means you oppose adding more rights of victims of crimes to the State Constitution, known as Marsy’s Law.
Supporting Marsy’s Law for Georgia is a special advocacy organization created just for this bill and is the main sponsor. The amendment is endorsed by a number of victims’ rights groups.
Joe Mulholland, a judge in South Georgia, told his local paper that the amendment is technically already part of the law. “It’s already technically part of Georgia law, but the legislature felt like being a part of the constitution is even stronger. Having that and knowing it is part of the constitution, I think it gives peace of mind to prosecutors.”
Opposing the amendment is the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank. They voiced concerns about the unintended consequences of the law, even writing a piece on it. They recognized that Georgia has a Crime Victims Bill of Rights in law currently. Among the concerns are: 1) additional attorney costs and costs for support staff for victims, 2) the risk of infringing the rights of someone accused of a crime, 3) an increase in false accusations, and seemingly most severe, the accused could “lose their right to be presumed innocent until convicted.”
The bill implementing the amendment is Senate Bill 127.
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.