A pedestrian's guide to Georgia's constitutional amendments

Explaining the amendments you'll be voting on

ATLANTA -- Four constitutional amendments are facing Georgia voters in this November's general elections. While Amendment 1 has been the subject of large scale discussion across the state, many voters are not familiar with the other measures - or exactly what they represent.

Each of the Constitutional measures are being decided based on a yes-or-no vote.


AMENDMENT 1:

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?"

The proposal allows the state to create an "Opportunity School District" in order to assume management, supervision and operation of a failing public school system through increasing community involvement.

"Chronically failing public schools" are those defined by the state's Department of Education as schools which have scored a 60 or below on the College and Career Ready Performance Index which compiles basic curriculum tests for three consecutive years.

The statewide Opportunity School District (OSD) would be administered by a superintendent, appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the state Senate. The OSD would be able to assume control of as many as 20 schools per year, but not more than 100 at any point in time. 

Schools would remain under the oversight of the OSD for at least 5 years, but no more than 10 years, before returning to local control. The OSD superintendent would then make a determination as to what is best for a failing school:

1 - Direct management of the school by the OSD

2 - Shared governance of the school between the OSD and the local school district

3 - Developing a charter school program for the school, working in collaboration with the State Charter School Commission

4 - Closing a failing school which is not a full capacity, and reassigning the remaining students to another high-achieving school within the district, depending on available space

The Georgia proposal is based on successful models in Louisiana and Tennessee.

AMENDMENT 2: 

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is judged 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 create and 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 have been sexually exploited?"

Supporters say the proposal allows additional penalties to be added to the crimes of prostitution and sex trafficking, as well as providing for additional assessments to be tacked on to adult entertainment venues in the state, and those funds earmarked for the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund. 

Opponents to the measure point out that the measure's language is vague and may not necessarily tie the funds to the Safe Harbor Fund or even if the fund exists. One opponent says the monies collected could easily just become revenue for the state's general fund.

Georgia Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Doug Craig says this is a matter of government overreach, and that there is no evidence that strip clubs have anything to do with sex trafficking in Georgia. 

"There's no convictions. There's no evidence of that," Craig said. "So what we're trying to do is find a type of business that people don't like and tax them for something we would like to help."

AMENDMENT 3: 

"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?"

The current Judicial Qualifications Commission -- an independent watchdog group which investigates judicial misconduct in the state of Georgia -- was established through a constitutional amendment in 1972. Legislative sponsors of this measure want to abolish the current commission and reconstitute it through the general assembly.

Supporters of the amendment insist the commission needs more oversight. Critics say the general assembly would be able to appoint the majority of the commission's members, while the State Bar of Georgia would no longer have the ability to appoint any members.

Opponents say the move for changes are politically motivated and would strip any measure of independence from the commission, and leave it beholden to legislators which may curry favor from judges.

AMENDMENT 4:

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?"

The current 5 percent excise tax collected on consumer fireworks sold in the state of Georgia, under this measure, would be diverted from the state's general fund, and only earmarked for the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission, the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council and for other public safety purposes. 

Supporters say this is a valid and important use for these funds, especially given the public health risk posed by fireworks. 

Opponents point out that the revenue would no longer be able to be used for any other purpose, and that to push the measure through at this point would be short-sighted, and that in the future, the funds may be needed elsewhere.

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(© 2016 WXIA)


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