On Nov. 8, there will be four constitutional amendments on the Georgia ballot. Last week we looked at Amendment 1, which would create an Opportunity School District that would take over failing schools. We will deal with that amendment again as the election draws closer. Today we will examine Amendment 2 and Amendment 3.
Amendment 2 asks the question:
“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?”
( ) Yes
( ) No
We imagine this is another sin tax primarily aimed at a group of people already deemed despicable and an industry — the adult entertainment industry — that no one would be caught dead defending. We would agree; however, our main concern is accountability.
Georgia is famous for creating additional fees and taxes dedicated to cleaning up tire dumps, landfills and hazardous waste sites but diverting the money collected, almost $200 million, to other uses. Money that was earmarked for high school driver education programs from additional traffic fines has also been diverted. House Resolution 502 would have put a stop to that practice by way of a constitutional amendment, but we won’t find it in our list of amendments this year. Lawmakers say they like the flexibility. We don’t think that’s being accountable at all, rather an attempt to bamboozle voters.
Amendment 3 asks this question:
“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?”
( ) YES
( ) NO
This is really an inside baseball constitutional amendment, but one that has ramifications for everyone who has dealings with our legal system. While most Georgia residents have never heard of the JQC, it is an independent constitutional commission that has existed since 1972, charged with disciplining lawyers and judges. From where we sit, the JQC has been doing a pretty good job, forcing more than 60 judges from the bench since 2007. The JQC comprises seven members, two judges of any court of record, selected by the Supreme Court; three members of the State Bar of Georgia and two non-lawyers appointed by the governor. This amendment would disband the JQC and reformulate, but legislation doesn’t specify the number of members or where they come from, only that they would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
In our opinion, this amendment injects politics into a process where it does not belong. The sponsors of this amendment are simply seeking payback. One sponsor is Johnnie Caldwell Jr., R-Thomaston, a former judge who stepped down in 2010 after a JQC investigation into an accusation he made sexually suggestive comments to a female attorney.
The last sentence of the amendment is misleading. “Allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner.” What the B clause in Article VI, Section VII, Paragraph VII would say in the amended constitution is: “The findings and records of the commission shall not be open to the public ‘except as provided by the General Assembly by general law.’ ” Meaning the General Assembly doesn’t have to open up the findings of the JQC at all.