Vote No on all four Georgia Constitutional Amendments!

The presidential election this year has blocked the sun out for pretty much every other race and issue on the ballot. However, there are four ballot questions regarding changing the Constitution of Georgia that voters need to educate themselves about before they vote YES or NO. I have studied each amendment carefully and can now say without any hesitation you should vote NO on all four amendments.

Remember: It is far easier to add a constitutional amendment than remove one.  In fact it’s almost impossible! If we decide to change the constitution it is imperative that the voter be very educated on what they are voting to amend because it’s nearly impossible to overturn an amendment. All Amendments must meet the following tests: the language needs to be very precise, there must exist a great need for the amendment, and the proposed amendment cannot be accomplished through normal legislation. All of these amendments fail these tests. Please Vote NO on all four!

Once the constitution is changed it’s a done deal and it’s far easier to change bad law than overturn a constitutional amendment. This is also a bipartisan cause with people on both sides opposing all four amendments. Here is a very good video by a Republican also explaining why we should vote no on all four amendments even if her rationale might differ from mine somewhat on a few of them. My only fear is the deceptive ballot language will confuse voters into supporting some very bad initiatives. Please don’t be one of them and spread the word on voting No!

Amendment One Ballot language: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

Amendment One, also known as the “school takeover plan,” would allow the state of Georgia to create an Opportunity School District to take over schools deemed “chronically failing,” according to a state rating system.

no-on-one-1024x672VOTE NO: In a nutshell, this is simply a way to create another agency with another superintendent appointed by the Governor with the power to select up to 20 failing schools per year (100 total) along with taking 3% of the school tax revenue to run this new agency. Georgia’s proposal, as in Tennessee, allows an appointed superintendent to place a school under the management of a charter organization. Tennessee only allows nonprofits, but Georgia would let for-profit charter companies run schools.

This new OSD Superintendent will have the power to fire the principals but will not be elected or accountable to the local communities who will have little to no input in the decisions.  The OSD superintendent will not have the ability to do anything different other than take  away all the control from the local teachers, school board, community and parents along with taking 3% of their money. OSD’s from states like Michigan, Louisiana, and Tennessee have also largely failed and in some of those states they are now fighting to end the program.

The current law allows for the elected State School Superintendent to exercise several of the powers available in the OSD. Nathan Deal doesn’t have any secret sauce or any plan at all to fix broken schools. This is simply a ruse to allow out of state private for-profit companies to get their greedy hands on local tax dollars and local taxpayers won’t have any influence on how their money is spent.

no-on-2-graphicAmendment two Ballot language: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited?

Amendment Two is supposed to create a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, to provide rehabilitative and social services to children who have been sexually exploited. It would draw those funds from additional fines placed on convicted sex traffickers and an annual $5,000 fee on adult entertainment businesses.

VOTE NO: This sounds like a good thing. But remember that it is unfair and also unconstitutional to target unrelated businesses with punitive sin taxes that will be passed to the consumer. This is a regressive tax that shifts the burden of funding from the government to the disproportionately poor Georgians. Taking care of exploited children is a good thing BUT this should have a reliable funding source from the budget and not an unreliable one targeting strip clubs who have nothing to do with the exploitation.

The wording in the actual text says the State  “MAY” create this fund and may spend this money to provide assistance to victims of sexual exploitation.  The operative word here is MAY which means that they also “MAY NOT”.  So this amendment would give them the right to collect the money and  require these people to pay it, but would NOT require the state to use it for this purpose. And if you look at many, many other laws passed in the state of Georgia that create ways that revenue is collected and MAY BE USED for something, most of the time that money simply goes to the General Fund and never is used for the intended purpose that you were led to believe.  Lawyers spend a great deal of time wording these amendments and if they TRULY WANTED the funds to go to this purpose then it would have said SHALL be used. The extra money you pay when you buy your tags is a perfect example.  You know the funds, like Save the Wetlands, Spay or Neuter, Save the Hemlocks, etc.  The last time I checked not one penny in all these past years has gone to any of these charities or causes.  All of the money has gone into the General Fund and used however the State saw fit because the wording was “MAY use the funds for ….” and the State chose to not use them for those purposes. BOTTOM LINE:  We should not need a constitutional amendment to appropriate funds to good causes.

no-on-3Amendment three Ballot language:: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?

Amendment Three would allow state lawmakers to recreate the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the watchdog agency that polices the state’s judges. For the first time in more than 40 years, the JQC would cease to be an independent oversight agency and would instead be governed based on political appointments. In addition, the amendment removes certain transparencies from the operations of the JQC.

The three branches of Government are supposed have separate powers so that they can police each other. If the person that appoints the judges, i.e. the Governor, now gets to use his power to appoint the people that oversee complaints filed against judges and have the power to remove judges, it seems that the Governor and his appointees will totally control the judicial system. The Judicial Qualifications Commission may need to be overhauled, but we do not need a Constitutional Amendment to abolish it and create a new commission that would take all oversight away from the “people.” This is just another way to take away more of our rights and control and give it to the State.  The State of Georgia received a grade of “D” on our ethics in state government.  The only reason we didn’t get an “F” is because we have this judicial oversight commission.  Don’t let them take that away from us. VOTE NO

Amendment four Ballot language: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?

Amendment Four would dedicate funds raised through excise taxes on  fireworks in the state to funding trauma care, equipment and training  for firefighters and local public safety efforts. First, the ballot language seems to be very misleading.  The summary says would take “EXISTING TAXES ON FIREWORKS” yet the bill says it will dedicate funds from ‘EXCISE taxes on fireworks which is very different.  The excise taxes are charged to the vendor selling the fireworks when he purchases them.  The vendor then can either pass that EXCISE tax along to the consumer or not.  If he does pass it on, the sales receipt must indicate both the sales tax and the excise tax, but he doesn’t have to pass it on. So, not really sure what the pool of funds will be, will it be taking the excise taxes the vendor pays which really doesn’t make any sense as he may have paid them to a vendor in China so how would state collect them?  And, if this amendment applies to the EXCISE taxes the vendor collects from the consumer, I wonder how much that will really be since the vendor does not have to pass that tax on?

Second, the language on the ballot fails to tell the voter what percentages will be used for each category.  So if you think this is a good idea because your county, may receive funds for local safety efforts, if you knew the real facts that would probably not amount to much as only 5% of the amount collected would be available to the local counties.  And since we have 159 counties in Georgia sharing this 5% (and it will probably be distributed based on population) will not amount to much .. you do the math.

The only good part of this amendment is that it actually says “SHALL” create the fund and “SHALL” use the money.  SEE, THEY DO KNOW HOW TO WRITE THE LANGUAGE SO THAT IT IS REQUIRED TO BE USED FOR THE INTENDED PURPOSE! BUT, do we really need a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to make the legislature fund trauma care and provide training and equipment for firefighters?  Remember, they are already receiving this money, this would just make them use it for something worthwhile. So are they telling us that we can’t count on the legislature to do what is right or necessary without a Constitutional Amendment?  If so, we need a new legislature. We do not need to keep modifying the constitution and adding amendments just to appropriate funding.  That is the primary reason they are sent to Atlanta.  We need to STOP adding to the bureaucracy. VOTE NO

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F. Gunter
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I am also saddened the SPLOST was passed. This watchdog needs to put up signage on the next SPLOST to draw folks into this great website.

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