Saturday, October 30, 2010

Georgia’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments and Referendum

No on Amendments, Yes on Referendum [UPDATED]

By: Larry Walker, Jr.

Someone called me on Friday and asked for my opinion on Georgia’s proposed Constitutional Amendments and its statewide referendum. I told him that I had not yet formed an opinion but would be doing so over the weekend. Well, here it is.

No on Amendment 1 [PASSED - BOO!]

Allows competitive contracts to be enforced in Georgia courts.

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?”

What it means: The amendment addresses non-compete agreements that prohibit a former employee from doing the same job for a different company for some period of time after leaving the first company.

Why am I voting no? The state legislature passed a law in violation of the Georgia Constitution and is now pushing for a Constitutional Amendment to validate its mistake. My interpretation: Do you want more government regulation in the private sector? Hell no.

No on Amendment 2 [NOT PASSED - GOOD!]

Adds a $10 tag fee on private passenger vehicles to fund statewide trauma care expansion.

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain passenger motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?”

What it means: An estimated $80 million a year would be raised from auto registration fees and would be constitutionally earmarked to stabilize and expand the state’s trauma care network.

Why am I voting no? Because, this is nothing more than a tax hike. I would rather see the legislature find ways to cut spending on other programs to fund trauma care. My interpretation: Do you want your taxes raised through a Constitutional amendment, since we are not able to raise them through normal legislation? Hell no.

No on Amendment 3 [NOT PASSED - GOOD!]

Allows the state to execute multiyear contracts for long-term transportation projects.

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to enter into multiyear construction agreements without requiring appropriations in the current fiscal year for the total amount of payments that would be due under the entire agreement so as to reduce long-term construction costs paid by the state?”

What it means: It allows the Georgia DOT to resume its practice of spreading the cost of major, multi-million dollar road projects over a number of years. The constitution currently requires the state to have all the money in hand before a contract can be signed.

Why am I voting no? Because, this policy would allow the state to spend more money than it has. It virtually assures that additional tax hikes will be required in the future. Voting yes, would allow the state to spend more money than it has in its budget. My interpretation: Do you want the state to go into debt to fund transportation projects? Hell no.

No on Amendment 4 [PASSED - BOO!]

Allows the state to execute multiyear contracts for projects to improve energy efficiency and conservation.

“Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide for guaranteed cost savings for the state by authorizing a state entity to enter into multiyear contracts which obligate state funds for energy efficiency or conservation improvement projects?”

What it means: This is essentially the same concept as Amendment 3, applied to projects that would retrofit state facilities with energy- or water-conservation systems.

Why am I voting no? Because, this policy would allow the state to spend more money than it has. It virtually assures that additional tax hikes will be required in the future. Voting yes, would allow the state to spend more money than it has in its budget. My interpretation: Do you want the state to go into debt to fund energy efficiency or conservation improvement projects? Hell no.

No on Amendment 5 [PASSED - BOO!]

Amendment 5 would allow owners of industrial zoned property to choose to remove industrial designation from their property.

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the owners of real property located in industrial areas to remove the property from the industrial area?”

What it means: The amendment affects only specific industrial areas in Chatham and Jeff Davis counties that were created via statewide constitutional amendments.

Why I am voting no? I do not reside in either of the two affected counties. I could therefore care less. My interpretation: Do we need a Constitutional Amendment just to help out a few folks in two Georgia counties? Hell no.

Yes on Statewide Referendum [PASSED - YAAA!]

Provides for inventory of businesses to be exempt from state property tax.

“Shall the Act be approved which grants an exemption from state ad valorem taxation for inventory of a business?”

What it means: The referendum would eliminate the state levy on business personal property. The exemption would be on items such as inventory, furniture and fixtures, office supplies, and office equipment.

Why am I voting yes? Because, I have always felt that it was wrong for the state to charge businesses an annual tax on office furniture, office supplies, inventory and equipment, when the business had already paid sales tax on the same. My interpretation: Do you want to stop paying annual taxes on items that you have already paid sales tax on? Hell yes.

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