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Our Guide to the Statewide Amendments and Referendum on the November 3 Ballot


Did you know that, in addition to all of the races on the ballot, there are two statewide constitutional amendments and one statewide referendum on the ballot that you need to vote on as well?

 

The first amendment says that if a tax or fee is enacted with a specific stated purpose, like say for example, funding hazardous waste cleanup, the money collected actually needs to go to funding hazardous waste cleanup. Right now, money collected mostly winds up in the state’s General Fund and can get spent on pretty much anything. It doesn’t have to go to the specified cause. That means the legislature can propose a tax or fee with a theoretical amenable cause and then use it to fund other stuff. Essentially using it as a dodge around having to say that they raised taxes. We favor fees and tax money going to the purposes for which they were enacted. Vote yes.

 

The second amendment is a little more complex. Right now, if someone wants to sue the State of Georgia, they can’t. This measure would waive the state's sovereign immunity, thereby allowing residents to sue over state or local laws that are found to violate the U.S. Constitution, state Constitution, or state law. Under the amendment, a court could not award damages, attorney's fees, or other costs of litigation unless authorized by the state legislature. After granting declaratory judgment, a court would be able to block the law or act in question. The legislature of Georgia has tried to change this in the past, but both times the laws they passed got vetoed by the Governor. So, they’re avoiding the Governor and submitting it as a constitutional amendment which is veto-proof. This is one of those super-rare cases where there is consensus on all sides— Republican, Democrat, Libertarian— that this amendment should pass. Vote yes.

 

Finally, there is the referendum that establishes a tax exemption for certain real estate owned by a charity like Habitat for Humanity. It allows for charities to forgo property taxes so as to make single family homes available to individuals to renovate them as long as the loans it makes to those individuals are interest-free and held solely by the charity. If another entity is seeking to gain the tax exemption for the property by engaging a charity to “front” the loan, then no tax break. That’s the loophole it is trying to close. Vote yes.

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