With 100 percent of precincts reporting statewide in Tuesday’s election, all five of the proposed state constitutional amendments on Georgia’s ballot were given a thumb’s up by voters — largely by wide margins.
The proposed amendments, outlined below with information from a recent Telegraph item (with updated mention of how the measures fared at the polls) included:
Amendment One, which asks if some of the sales taxes Georgians already pay on outdoor goods, like fishing poles or binoculars, should be set aside for buying more public land or maintaining state parks. The measure would not raise taxes, but it does say that from existing taxes that the state must spend at least about $20 million and as much as about $40 million on land conservation each year for at least 10 years. Supporters say it is easier to plan for buying land when the state can depend on a source of money, rather than on annual budgets, which vary. State lawmakers from both parties overwhelmingly approved putting the idea on ballots. YES: 3,132,658 (83%); NO: 648,488 (17%)
Amendment Two, which would set up a Georgia court to hear complex business cases. Republicans broadly supported this one, on the grounds that businesses could get faster, more consistent verdicts from judges who come to specialize in business; and regular courts wouldn’t get bogged down with such cases. Critics, mostly Democrats, generally did not care for how the judges would be picked. Judges are elected to the Georgia Supreme Court, state Court of Appeals plus state, superior and some other courts. Business court judges would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state House and Senate judiciary committees. YES: 2,536,687 (69%); NO: 1,140,838 (31%)
Amendment Three, which would change how timberland is defined and taxed in Georgia and how counties get reimbursed for a property tax break that the state gives to such land. For several years, some of the counties that have a lot of timberland have felt unfairly treated by the state. This adjustment to the program got near total support in the Legislature. YES: 2,255,191 (62%); NO: 1,373,185 (38%)
Amendment Four, which aims to keep people involved in court proceedings if they’ve been a victim or alleged victim of a crime. Crime victims already have rights like the right to be informed if a perpetrator has been let out of prison; this puts those legal rights in the state Constitution. South Dakota passed a law promoted by the same national Marsy’s Law campaign that’s been promoting this amendment. South Dakota’s law has gotten headlines for its unintended, court-clogging consequences. But Georgia’s version does not require as much of the courts. It passed the state Legislature unanimously. YES: 3,040,210 (81%); NO: 718,559 (19%)
Amendment Five was on every ballot, but it only matters in counties that have more than one public school system, such as a city one and a county one. It gives a new right to the larger school system in any such county to call a vote for a penny sales tax for education, even without the smaller system’s buy-in. But the systems would still share the money — split by enrollment numbers by default — unless they come to some other agreement. It attracted some opposition from both parties in the Legislature, but still passed with more than three-quarters of lawmaker support. YES: 2,616,320 (71%); NO: 1,058,392 (29%)
Referendum A was on every ballot, but it only applies to the city of Atlanta. It asks if the municipal portion of Atlanta’s annual property taxes should be capped so that they rise no more than 2.6 percent a year. It passed the Legislature almost unanimously. YES: 2,042,114 (57%); NO: 1,535,680 (43%)
Referendum B involves a tax break that is available to nonprofit homes for people who have mental disabilities. This question asks if that tax break should still apply if a for-profit institution is financing the construction or renovation of the home. It’s an adjustment that passed the Legislature almost unanimously. YES: 2,835,147 (77%); NO: 851,759 (23%)
Telegraph writer Maggie Lee contributed to this report.