Here are my opinions about the Constitutional Amendment Proposals, followed by opinions by a few friends that also work at keeping Government accountable::
House Resolution No. 238 Resolution Act No. 414 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1138
Amendment 1 – 80% of taxes collected from sporting goods stores put in trust for protection and preservation of conservation land.
Issues I have with this amendment:
1. “up to 80 percent of all moneys received by the state from the levy of a tax on the sale and use of goods and services…” indicates to me that a new tax is to be added on in addition the the existing sales tax.
2. “collected by establishments classified under the 2007 North American Industry Classification Code 451110 “ NAICS Code version stipulated is 10 years out of date, the latest version of the code includes the following retail store types:
Athletic equipment and supply stores (including uniforms)
Bicycle (except motorized) shops
Bowling equipment and supply stores
Diving equipment stores
Exercise equipment stores
Fishing supply stores (e.g., bait)
Footwear (e.g., bowling, golf, spiked), specialty sports, stores
Golf pro shops
Outdoor sporting equipment stores
Pro shops (e.g., golf, skiing, tennis)
Shoe stores, specialty sports footwear (e.g., bowling, golf, spiked)
Sporting goods stores
Sports gear stores (e.g., outdoors, scuba, skiing)
Tackle shops (i.e., fishing)
Uniform stores, athletic
3. “Conservation Land” is not defined or enumerated
4.Methods, resources, budgets, responsible agencies and departments are not specified in “preserving and protecting” said “conservation lands”
5. Who are the trustees of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, where are the funds kept, who is in control of the funds, who is authorized to spend from this account, how often and where are the financial reports filed?
My Opinion: VOTE NO
House Resolution No. 993 Resolution Act No. 410 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1130
Amendment 2 – Creation of State-wide Business Court.
Issues I have with this amendment:
1. “create a state-wide business court with state-wide jurisdiction for use under certain circumstances “ Circumstances are not defined.
2. The hierarchy of the classes of courts ranks “Business Courts” above Superior Courts – “classes of courts: magistrate courts, probate courts, juvenile courts, state courts, superior courts, state-wide business court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court “
3. “Each county shall have at least one superior court, magistrate court, a probate court, and, where needed, a state court “ There are 159, do we really need 159 new courts?
4. “The state-wide business court shall have state-wide jurisdiction as provided by law.” No limits on jurisdiction seems far reaching. This implies that a Business Court in Albany can try a case of a business in Dalton?
5. “A superior court by agreement of the parties may order removal of a case to the state-wide business court as provided by law” Okay, then why create a Business Court in the first place?
6. “business court judges shall serve a term of five years… shall be appointed by the Governor … may be reappointed for any number of consecutive terms …” Appointed means NOT elected. This screams to me of political pay back for loyal minions.
7. “The state-wide business court shall consist of the number of judges as provided for by law” No set number is established, yet every county may create a business court, 159 counties…
8. “The Judicial Qualifications Commission which existed on June 30, 2017, is hereby abolished.” Not that this body ever got anything done, but…
9. “The General Assembly shall by general law create and provide for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a Judicial Qualifications Commission” Sure but will they ever create and staff a new JQC?
10. “opinions issued by the Judicial Qualifications Commission shall be subject to review by the Supreme Court. “ Even if they did, they would probably never get a Judge off the bench.
11. No definition of purpose or expression of intent for the creation of a new class of court is expressed in this amendment. It should be void on vagueness.
My Opinion -VOTE NO
House Resolution No. 51 Resolution Act No. 297 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1127
Amendment 3 – Forest Land Conservation Use Property
Issues I have with this bill:
Overall, this bill looks to me as if it adjusts the number of years of a tax recapture from 15 to 10 years to accommodate the newer strains of faster growing pine trees in favor of the forestry industry. It is convoluted and intricate and written as if it was meant to be intentionally hard to read and understand. The 100 acre threshold in the bill, I surmise, has something to do with a former Georgia Governor’s windfall on the sale of a 101 acre plot adjacent to an area designates as Conservation Land. (He’s the US Agriculture Secretary now)
My opinion: It doesn’t matter how you vote on this one unless you own over 100 acres of Timber land
Senate Resolution No. 146 Resolution Act No. 467 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1139
Amendment 4 – Victim’s Rights – A.K.A. Marsy’s Law
Issues I have with this amendment:
The original version of Marsy’s that came out of California (https://oag.ca.gov/victimservices/content/bill_of_rights) contained language that adversely impacted the rights of defendants. Fortunately, none of the language infringing on the rights of the defendant in the bill originally introduced in Georgia made it into the final version we’re voting to adopt or reject.
This bill is clearly written to enumerate the rights of a victim while navigating through the judicial system.
Here are the main points:
(1) The right upon request to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any scheduled court proceedings involving the alleged act or changes to the scheduling of such proceedings;
(2) The right upon request to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of the arrest, release, or escape of the accused;
(3) The right not to be excluded from any scheduled court proceedings involving the alleged act;
(4) The right upon request to be heard at any scheduled court proceedings involving the release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and
(5) The right to be informed of his or her rights.
However – each of these points are already in the Georgia Code. It is unnecessary and redundant!
My opinion – Vote NO
Senate Resolution No. 95 Resolution Act No. 278 Ga. L. 2017, p. 857
Amendment 5 – Adds language in the section already allowing a school district to call for a tax referendum
My issues with this amendment:
1. The current version of the constitution, Article VII, Section VI, Paragrah IV subparagph (g) states, “ the tax shall be distributed… according to the ratio the student enrollment in each school district” which seems fair and equitable.
2. This amendment removes this language from section (g) of the current version of the current constitution, (“according to the ratio the student enrollment in each school district “ ) and adds the following stipulation, “according to an agreement between the county school system and the independent school district or districts” which means to me that a dis-equal application of tax dollars per student could be possible within any given district.
3. Removing the guarantee of equal distribution of tax dollars and inserting an authorization to negotiate to keep more in one school over another may lead to greedy temptations and unequal student opportunities.
4. On the other hand, it may be the case that such agreements would be beneficial to schools that need additional funding over neighboring schools in order to improve student scholastic outcomes.
My Opinion – Vote your conscience on this one, but NO is the better choice.
Chairman – Libertarian Party of Georgia
Opinion of Madison Forum Member:
1. Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund HR 238
Another bill that pulls money from the tax system and designates it go to a specific area. The funds used to purchase land that are lost to the current tax system will likely have to be replaced by additional tax increases. Also, the United Nations via the Agenda 21 plan are pushing that private property rights be eliminated in America. One way to eliminate those rights is for government to own all the property. Also, since we use ad valorem taxes in Georgia all property that leaves the tax digest will eventually have to be made up by those paying ad valorem taxes. This removes property from the tax base and will at some point require increased taxes to make up for what is missing.
Business Courts HR 993
This expands government and will require new support services. This bill removes power from the people and gives it the Governor who is already one of the most powerful Governors in the USA. There is the possibility of business colluding with the Governor to get “their man” elected that will benefit their corporation. This bill possibly allows corporations with the most money to be very influential in the business court. Just as a side I don’t like the fact that when a judge is found guilty and removed from office the public is not allowed to know why. This is not new it exists right now under our current system.
Forest Tax Conservation HR 51
This bill reads like someone needs to sell a piece of property they have placed in a Conservation Covenant and could not sell it so this bill would allow them to sell a piece of the covenant property without being penalized.
Victim’s Rights SR 146
Simply allows victims of crimes to be kept aware of court proceedings and possible parole hearings of the criminal that harmed them. However already codified in Georgia Law.
School District Tax Proceeds Allocation SR 95
This bill gives a large school system in a district an advantage over the smaller system. It also seems to allow for the possible unequal appropriation of money per student if an agreement can be reached with the smaller school. Don’t understand any logical reason for this monetary difference to take place.
Opinion from VOTERGA
Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund-HR238
This amendment requires the legislature to allocate up to 80% of sales tax revenue from sporting goods sales toward land conservation. The legislature can do this annually now in the budgeting process and the amendment would impede their authority to allocate proceeds annually to other causes such as education, medical care, transportation, etc. Suggested Vote: NO
2. Business Courts-HR993
This amendment authorizes the establishment of a new statewide business court with judges that are appointed by the governor. Localities already have authority to appoint business courts with judges that are elected by the people. Suggested Vote: NO
3. Forest Tax Conservation–HR51
This complicated amendment reduces the ad valorem tax on large tracts of land that are placed under an conservation covenant, compensate localities with assistance grants from state funds for loss of revenue and allow the state revenue commissioner to retain 5% of the grant for administrative costs. The convent contents are not specified and it is unclear why these landowners would receive a special tax break. Suggested Vote: NO
4. Victim’s Rights–SR146
This amendment allows victims of an alleged crime the rights to timely notice of all court proceedings of the accused and arrest releases of those convicted and the right to be heard at a release, plea or sentencing hearing of the accused. It originally had language that could have negatively impacted the right of a defendant but that was removed during the legislative process. Suggested Vote YES
5. School District Tax Proceeds Allocation–SR95
This amendment allows school districts to call for an educational referendum tax instead of a county board of education. It also allows districts to distribute proceeds that are normally allocated on a per student basis, to be allocated disproportionally across school districts if an agreement is reached among those districts. It is unclear why this would be necessary. Suggested Vote: NO
A. Homestead Exemption for Residents of Multi-County Municipalities-HB820
This referendum would allow residents in multi-county municipalities such as the City of Atlanta to apply for and receive homestead tax exemptions that other residents in those counties already receive. Suggested Vote YES
B. Tax Exemption for Homes run for Mentally Disabled –HB196
This referendum would provide an ad valorem tax exemption for non-profit or for profit corporations who operate homes for the mentally disabled. Suggested Vote: NO