There are five amendments on the Georgia ballot. I plan to vote no on all of them and hope you might consider doing so as well. They are not needed, will expand bureaucratic bloat in the state and contain unnecessary carve outs.
The first amendment would create a “Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund” that would purportedly protect water quality, wildlife habitats and state parks. The amendment would take up to 80 percent of the state sales tax generated at sporting goods stores and set it aside for a fund that would be used for state parks, wetlands protection, etc.
The problem is the amendment creates a constitutionally-protected slush fund with existing taxpayer dollars that will then deprive other things of potentially needed funds. Our state parks already have fees. The idea behind this amendment is well meaning, but I am concerned about the ramifications. We will have bureaucrats and legislators using the money for pet projects and necessary items will get ignored in favor of perks.
Amendment two is the worst amendment. It would create a brand-new court bureaucracy in the state for business matters. The amendment would create a state-wide business court, new superior court business court divisions and all the costs that come with it. I have not yet met a judge in the state who thinks it is a good idea. I also think we will see small businesses getting hurt. Pretty soon we will need special lawyers to go to the special new court to handle the business matters.
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I have no doubt major corporations love this amendment. You should not, particularly if you are a small business owner. It will undoubtedly drive up your costs while also making business litigation and business law more complex, as neither the judges nor the lawyers involved feel compelled to provide simplified explanations of complex matters for laymen and small business owners. If I could vote no on this amendment multiple times, I would.
Driving down Bass Road in North Macon there is a sign urging a yes vote on the third amendment for “fair forests.” I have no idea what a fair forest is, but it sounds like a sop to somebody. This has to do with timber land, which is a big industry in Georgia, and I suspect it could be done without locking it into the constitution.
I will get to the fourth amendment momentarily. Let me just say that the fifth amendment would allow countywide referenda for taxes to be distributed in different ways. I have plenty of concerns with funding for schools, but putting these issues to voters just gives elected officials a way to pass the buck. I will vote no.
Amendment 4 is the one I suspect most people will vote for. It is being funded by a billionaire whose family was a victim of crime. It is very well intentioned. It provides victims with certain rights, particularly the right to be notified if the criminal who caused them harm gets out of jail. But we already have this in Georgia law. There is no need for this amendment. The law is here now and it works.
Philosophically, I have a strong aversion to amending the constitution to put in things that can be accomplished by law. Once in the constitution, it becomes hard to change. There is no reason for this fourth amendment or any of the others. So I will vote no on all of them.
Erick Erickson is host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB Radio