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Amendments & Referenda

Constitutional Amendments

There are five constitutional amendments on the ballot. They concern using tax money from sporting good stores to support conservation efforts; a statewide business court; using up to 5% of grants to preserve forestland; victims’ rights in criminal cases; and tax allocation of school districts.

Amendment 1

Creates the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and parks.

House Resolution No. 238 Resolution Act No. 414 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1138

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?

Summary:

Constitutional Amendment 1 permits revenue received from the sales and use tax of goods and services sold in sporting goods stores to go to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.

Constitutional Amendment 1 provides that the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund will replace the current Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund and the Georgia Land Conservation Revolving Loan Fund.

Policy Implications:

Constitutional Amendment 1 supports land conservation efforts with dedicated tax dollars. Forty to 80% of tax revenue from the sale of outdoor recreation equipment will go into the new Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund. Trust fund money will be provided as grants to government entities, and nongovernmental entities for conservation purposes. Conservation purposes include supporting hunting, clean water and the US military’s conservation efforts.

Certain counties which contain 20,000+ acres of unimproved, state-owned land will be eligible to receive annual grants from the Trust Fund. 

Constitutional Amendment 1 also creates a board that will oversee the distribution of funds.

Amendment 2

Creates a state-wide business court to lower costs, enhance efficiency, and promote predictable judicial outcomes.

House Resolution 993 Resolution Act No. 410 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1130

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?

Summary:

Constitutional Amendment 2 creates a statewide business court system.

Statewide business court judges will be appointed by the Governor to a five-year term, subject to approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a majority vote of the House Committee on Judiciary.

Policy Implications:

Constitutional Amendment 2 would create a statewide business court system. Business cases filed in superior courts can be sent to the statewide business courts if all the parties and the superior court judge agree that the case should be transferred.

One argument made in favor of statewide business courts is that judges could specialize in complex business cases and therefore dispose of cases more efficiently. In addition, the diversion of cases to statewide business courts could reduce the caseloads of superior courts.  

One argument made against the statewide business courts is that local superior courts would lose power over local business cases. A second argument against this amendment is that appointed judges could be less accountable to the public when compared to elected judges.

Amendment 3

Encourages the conservation, sustainability, and longevity of Georgia’s working forests through tax subclassification and grants.

House Resolution No. 51 Resolution Act No. 297 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1127

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 forestland 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?

Summary:

Constitutional Amendment 3 changes how ad valorem taxes are assessed for “forest land conservation use” property and authorizes the General Assembly to offset the loss of revenue to local governments and schools that may result from implementation of this constitutional amendment.

Constitutional Amendment 3 also creates a new class of property called “qualified timberland property” for ad valorem tax purposes. Qualified timberland property is defined as property with the primary purpose of producing timber for commercial use.

Policy Implications:

“Forest land conservation use” property has a lower tax rate than other property. Constitutional Amendment 3 expands the number of properties that would qualify as “forest land conservation use” property. By giving landowners a lower tax rate, they have an incentive to use their property for conservation purposes, rather than use their property for commercial purposes.

Constitutional Amendment 3 also permits property used for commercial timber production to have a different tax valuation than it currently has. If one assumes that “qualified timberland property” will have a lower tax rate than it currently has, local governments could be negatively impacted by the loss of revenue.

Amendment 4

Provides rights for victims of crime in the judicial process.

Senate Resolution No. 146 Resolution Act No. 467 Ga. L. 2018, p. 1139

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?

Summary:

Constitutional Amendment 4 is known as Marsy’s Law. The constitutional amendment provides that victims of crimes have the right to know when court proceedings are taking place and the right to be heard at hearings. The constitutional amendment also gives a crime victim the right to know when the accused has been released or escaped.

Policy Implication:

Current law provides crime victims an expansive set of rights, including the right to be notified about what is going on in their cases. (See Title 17, Chapter 17 of Georgia Code is titled the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights.)

Constitutional Amendment 4 would elevate some of the rights in law to the constitutional level. Constitutional rights are more secure and all three branches of government must abide by them.

In addition to what is already in current law, Constitutional Amendment 4 also gives crime victims the right to a hearing if the state fails to notify the crime victim when required.

Amendment 5

Authorizes fair allocation of sales tax proceeds to county and city school districts.

Senate Resolution No. 95 Resolution Act No. 278 Ga. L. 2017, p. 857

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize a referendum for a sales and use tax for education by a county school district or an independent school district or districts within the county having a majority of the students enrolled within the county and to provide that the proceeds are distributed on a per student basis among all the school systems unless an agreement is reached among such school systems for a different distribution?

Summary:

Constitutional Amendment 5 allows a county school district with an independent school district in it to call for a countywide referendum for a special education sale and use tax. The educational sales taxes will be distributed according to an agreement between the county school system and the independent school district. If the county school system and the independent school district cannot reach an agreement on how to divide the taxes, the funds will be divided among the districts in proportion of the students enrolled.

Policy Implications:

Constitutional Amendment 5 purports to addresses an issue with sales tax distribution within certain school systems within the same county. Smaller school systems (usually the independent city school systems) may be refusing to agree to an SPLOST referendum if they do not get favorable terms on how the tax money will be divided with the larger school system (usually the county school systems). Constitutional Amendment 5 would resolve this alleged problem by allowing the larger school system to call for a referendum on collecting a SPLOST without being required to give the smaller school system favorable terms. The impact of Constitutional Amendment 5 will differ depending on local situation of each representative’s district.

This would impact DeKalb County where there is an overlap with Atlanta Public Schools and the Decatur School System. It also impacts Gwinnett County with the Buford School System.

 

Statewide Referenda

– A –

Provides for a homestead exemption for residents of certain municipal corporations.

House Bill No. 820 Act No. 346 Ga. L. 2018, p. 235

Do you approve a new homestead exemption in a municipal corporation that is located in more than one county, that levies a sales tax for the purposes of a metropolitan area system of public transportation, and that has within its boundaries an independent school system, from ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes in the amount of the difference between the current year assessed value of a home and the adjusted base year value, provided that the lowest base year value will be adjusted yearly by 2.6 percent?

Summary:

Statewide Referendum Question A provides for a homestead tax exemption for the City of Atlanta.

Policy Implications:

Statewide Referendum Question A was introduced to address the rise in property values in Atlanta. It limits also the rate at which taxes can rise. This could result in a lower tax base for Atlanta school systems.

– B-

Provides a tax exemption for certain homes for the mentally disabled.

House Bill No. 196 Act No. 25 Ga. L. 2017, p. 55

Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes on nonprofit homes for the mentally disabled if they include business corporations in the ownership structure for financing purposes?

Summary:

Statewide Referendum Question B provides that a nonprofit home for the mentally disabled which qualifies for a tax exemption will not lose its tax exempt status if a lender becomes an owner of the home for the purposes of providing financing for construction or renovation of the home. The lender cannot keep any ownership interest in the home after the debt has been paid off for this provision to apply.

Policy Implications:

Statewide Referendum Question B appears to be more of a clarification of the law than a change in law. If passed, this Statewide Referendum Question B would benefit nonprofit homes for the mentally disabled.

Advance Voting

Advance Voting for November 6 General Election
(click on image to enlarge)
Information: Call DeKalb Elections at (404) 298-4020.

 

 

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