5 Constitutional Amendments to the State Constitution will appear on the November general election ballot. Are you informed about what those ballot questions mean?

Here’s a brief rundown.

Amendment 1 — Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Sales Tax Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund Amendment 

This would give the state the authority to dedicate “up to” 80% of the existing sales and use tax on outdoor sporting goods to be used for land conservation.  This was initially supposed to happen when the sales tax was put into place, but never occurred. The “up to” 80% language means the legislature is still not required to allocate the tax money but can allocated up to that percentage.

The funds would be used to support state parks and trails, provide stewardship of conservation lands, and acquire land for the provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, fishing, military installation buffering, or outdoor recreation.These initiatives would be carried out by creating the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, which would be handled by the state. 40% of the 80% allocated would go to this fund.

It will appear on the ballot as follows:

Without increasing the current state sales tax rate, shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to conserve lands that protect drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; to protect and conserve forests, fish, wildlife habitats, and state and local parks; and to provide opportunities for our children and families to play and enjoy the outdoors, by dedicating, subject to full public disclosure, up to 80 percent of the existing sales tax collected by sporting goods stores to such purposes without increasing the current state sales tax rate?

VOTING YES means you support allowing the state to authorize up to 80% of the sales tax for outdoor goods for conservation.

VOTING NO means you oppose support allowing the state to authorize up to 80% of the sales tax for outdoor goods for conservation.

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition is one of the main sponsors of this amendment as is The Georgia Conservancy.

Opponents of the amendment say it doesn’t go far enough or have enough enforcement teeth to require the money actually be used for conservation. It simply allows the state to send the money to the fund if it chooses.


Amendment 2 – Business Court Creation

Amendment 2 would create a new court system in the state of Georgia, specifically for businesses. This will allow judges in the business court to be APPOINTED not ELECTED. All judges would be appointed by the Governor and there would be no limit on how long a judge could serve.

It will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create a state-wide business court, authorize superior court business court divisions, and allow for the appointment process for state-wide business court judges in order to lower costs, improve the efficiency of all courts, and promote predictability of judicial outcomes in certain complex business disputes for the benefit of all citizens of this state?

VOTING YES means you support amending the Constitution to authorize the state to create a state business court and would set the rules, term length and qualifications of the court.

VOTING NO means you oppose amending the Constitution to authorize the state to create a state business court which would appoint judges by way of the Governor,  set the rules, term length and qualifications of the court.

This Amendment was sponsored by the Governor’s floor leaders and others, including Representatives Chuck Efstration, Terry Rogers, Trey Rhodes, Christian Coomer, Wendell Willard, and Barry Fleming. All are Republicans.

Governor Nathan Deal told WABE that, “A constitutional created business court would provide an efficient and dependable forum for litigants in every corner of our state.” This is a measure that was part of his Court Reform Council in his earlier years as governor. The amendment has the support of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and is being pushed by “Georgians for Lawsuit Reform.”

Here’s the link to the bill.


Amendment 3 – Forest Land and Timberland Conservation

This amendment would revise current law by subclassifying forest land conservation use property for ad valorem taxation purposes. It would also change the method for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants.

Amendment 3 will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?

VOTING YES means you support allowing the legislature to change the formula used to calculate the tax on forest land conservation use property and create a new land designation for commercial timberland. This also allows the state to establish a percentage of local grant assistance funding that could be retained by the state for administration.

VOTING NO means you oppose allowing the legislature to change the formula used to calculate the tax on forest land conservation use property and create a new land designation for commercial timberland. This also allows the state to establish a percentage of local grant assistance funding that could be retained by the state for administration.

The bill is supported by the Georgia Forestry Commission and Governor Deal. Andres Villegas, president and CEO of the Georgia Forestry Association was quoted saying, “For more than 100 years, the Georgia Forestry Association has been instrumental in timber tax legislation, which has positioned the state as a global leader in forestry. Thanks to the leadership of our elected officials and Governor Deal, we can, once again, ensure that our tax policy supports the growth and vitality of our working forests and the communities that depend on them.”

You can read the bill here.


Amendment 4 – Marsy’s Law/Victim’s Rights

Amendment 4, known as Marsy’s Law, addresses rights of victims of crime. It is part of a national effort to add additional rights and privileges for victims of crime.

The amendment allows, upon request, crime victims to have specific rights, including the right to be treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect;” the right to notice of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving that release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights. The amendment also explicitly stated that the legislature was able to further define, expand, and provide for the enforcement of the rights.

The amendment will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?

VOTING YES means you support adding more rights of victims of crimes to the State Constitution, known as Marsy’s Law.

VOTING NO means you oppose adding more rights of victims of crimes to the State Constitution, known as Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law for Georgia is a special advocacy organization created just for this bill and is the main sponsor. The amendment is endorsed by a number of victims’ rights groups.

Joe Mulholland, a District Attorney in South Georgia, told his local paper that the amendment is technically already part of the law. “It’s already technically part of Georgia law, but the legislature felt like being a part of the constitution is even stronger. Having that and knowing its part of the constitution, I think it gives peace of mind to prosecutors.”

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, has voiced concerns about the unintended consequences of the law, even penning a piece on it. You can read that here, but among the concerns are 1) additional attorney costs and costs for support staff for victims, 2) the risk of infringing the rights of someone accused of a crime, 3) an increase in false accusations, and seemingly most severe, the accused could “lose their right to be presumed innocent until convicted.”

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation also said in an article published on their website that “A constitutional amendment is no place to risk infringing the rights of someone accused of a crime. The accused have the presumption of innocence until convicted; their life and liberty are at stake. For many suffering victims and their surviving families, there’s a fine line between justice based on a court of law and vengeance based on the alleged wrongdoing.”


Amendment 5 – School Sales Tax Referendums

Amendment 5 is the School Sales Tax Referendums Amendment. This amendment, if passed, would allow school districts or groups of school districts within a county to call for a sales and use tax referendum. For example: Fulton County and Atlanta City Schools or Cobb County and City of Marietta Schools.

The sales tax would be used for the educational purposes of the school districts and would be 1%. The term could be upwards of 5 years.

It will appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize a referendum for a sales and use tax for education by a county school district or an independent school district or districts within the county having a majority of the students enrolled within the county and to provide that the proceeds are distributed on a per student basis among all the school systems unless an agreement is reached among such school systems for a different distribution?

VOTING YES means you support the amendment to allow a school district or districts with a majority of enrolled students within a county to call for a referendum to levy a sales tax for education purposes.

VOTING NO means you oppose the amendment to allow a school district or districts with a majority of enrolled students within a county to call for a referendum to levy a sales tax for education purposes.

Ballotpedia quotes Senator Ellis Black, a sponsor of the Amendment, in an interview saying, “the measure was designed to put provisions in place so that a school system with a majority of the full-time equivalent (FTE) students can place a renewal of an ESPLOST on the ballot before voters without having to ask all the systems within a county. Black also said the measure was designed to prevent a smaller school system from essentially blackmailing a larger school system within the county from passing a resolution to place an ESPLOST renewal on the ballot, and similarly, that it would stop a larger school system from preventing smaller systems from putting the issue before voters.”

The bill passed 33-17 down party lines.


Two referendums that are not constitutional amendments will also appear on the ballot, but we’ll cover those – and what they mean – in another piece.

Early voting begins October 15th and Election Day is November 6th.

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46 COMMENTS

    • Sorry, we don’t cover South Carolina at this time. It would be hard to discuss the implications of the amendments in another state when I haven’t followed the issues through the legislature. Maybe one day soon we’ll be in South Carolina, too!

  1. Thank you. 4 worries me. It also bothers me that when someone is accused or arrested their name is published or perhaps there is a front page story. Most people seem to assume the accused must be guilty. If they are cleared it may be noted somewhere but damage is still done.
    I’m not sure how this amendment would be upheld in federal court if it infringes the rights of the accused, who are presumed innocent under law, if not in public. It seems to be an amendment born not of thought and reason but of feelings. I dont know…

    • Could not agree more. In a small like mine, having your name in the paper for a crime before you have your day in court can be very costly, like your job. This would be one step closer to being presumed guilty.

        • They already have all these rights by statute; there’s no reason to add this list to the constitution where making timely alterations or additions is much more difficult.

  2. Marcy’s Law would prevent an angry boyfriend from throwing vitriolic acid in your face thus scarring you for life!

    Please examine the taxes for schools. Your vote counts! Thank you for educating yourself prior to casting your vote.

    • Actually, Marsy’s Law would not prevent any crime. It only provides for victim rights, specifically the right to notice of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving that release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights.

    • Unfortunately this list of rights–whether statutory or constitutional–does not accomplish this. The criminal code as it already stands is what we use to deter such things.

  3. Thanks you so much for the info. Moved from Tucson last year where the Leaague of Women Voters put out an extensive pamphlet on candidates, amendments and other proposals that appeared on the ballot. They provided pro and con arguments and a list of who supports the ballot measure and who opposes. I am still confused about the State Referenda — very confusing wording for A and Special Elections – first measure.

    Is there any other place I can go to get info.

  4. Just wanted to let you know that Joe Mulholland is not a judge in South Georgia, he is the District Attorney for the South Georgia Judicial Circuit. Also, thank you for the info on the Amendments. It does help to be able to read and study them ahead of time.

  5. Hello. Question on Amedment 5: If the largest district calls for and gets the 1% tax approved by the voters, how is the funding to be allocated? Also, do all voters in that county get to vote on this measure or only citizens from within that specific school district? Thank you.

  6. Amendment 2 – Business Court Creation
    Amendment 2 would create a new court system in the state of Georgia, specifically for businesses. This will allow judges in the business court to be
    (((((((APPOINTED not ELECTED)))))))))))).
    All judges would be
    ((((((((appointed by the Governor)))))))))))))))
    and there would be
    (((((((((((( no limit on how long a judge could serve.))))))))))

    There is a lot to be concerned about here!! Not the (( ))

    • I agree with Mr. Durr. I like the idea of business court. Don’t like what Douglas pointed out. Those were also my concerns when reading it. I will be voting no.

    • Totally agree with Douglas Durr. Judges shouldn’t be appointments by the Governor.
      Look at the Kavanaugh fiasco, a majority of the American people that took the poll would not have allowed him on the Supreme Court.

        • Drew Allen – Georgia Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the Governor.
          The appointments Donald is referencing, in Amendment 2 in the business courts, all of the judges would be appointed by the Governor and would be unaccountable to the people.

          • The fact that a majority of Americans were willing to presume Kavanaugh’s guilt without the benefit of a court proceeding is exactly why they should be appointed.

      • Ignorant people. I think a Governor with advice from respected, knowledgeable people from the community would definitely be more qualified to appoint a qualified judge but I do think there should be term limits to prevent any conflicts of interest developing.

  7. Great Comment on a FB Group page by a practicing Lawyer on Amendment 2

    Alan Faircloth

    It raises several questions for me, in no particular order or priority. Why is it needed (what problem is it supposed to solve/address)? Statements suggest it’s about efficiency, but that can be addressed without a constitutional amendment to create a new court….so tell me the real reason why.

    Why are judges appointed versus elected like superior court? If the governor appoints them, a governor has the ability to significantly influence the disposition and outcomes. And the voters lose a great deal of control and influence.

    Looks like there won’t be any term limits. Again, very different than other judge positions where they are up for election at established time periods. This cuts two ways in that they aren’t subject to as much influence politically as injected by Gov appts and elections, but voters lose the ability to decide if a different person may be better. This is especially important if the judge is the trier of fact also (no jury).

    Highly favored and supported by chamber of commerce. This scares me because that means they see it as a very favorable thing for them. Better outcomes in their favor. Not sure if that includes tax abatements, bond support, etc. So Larry Savage might find it even harder to win a case in this court.

    Funding. Where is the money going to come from to fund these courts, including salaries of judges, court officers and employees? This is the prelude to tax raises. You supported the creation of the courts and that can’t be done without more money. So “ipso facto” you supported the tax increase too.

    I’m very suspicious and highly critical of constitutional amendments. They open a Pandora’s box that will likely never get closed and the fix may be worse than whatever is being fixed.

    • You put words to many of my own thoughts as I considered these issues. The business court seems to indicate that the decreased time of processing these cases would substantiate a savings by removing them from traditional courts. However, the courts are already backlogged. It may help many people waiting for their day in court, but the traditional courts will be just as busy as they always have been; hence, greater efficiency for all but cost-savings for none. I would like to take a closer look at how exactly these have benefited the citizens themselves in other counties.

      The elected versus appointed issue with judges is a very old one. On the one hand, I do fear that voters care more about the party than the person and do not appreciate the nuance that exists in many issues. The Governor’s Office is a much higher profile election that receives much more coverage than judges of whom we’ve likely never heard. We’re delegating many powers and responsibilities to the governor that we elect as part of our democratic republican process. The term length coupled with the regular gubernatorial elections do provide a certain check on their disposition and tenure. On the other hand, it almost concerns me more that their terms are perpetually subject to political affiliation. In the long term, I would rather have a judge who can be swayed by neither shifting political winds nor quick-tempered but short-lived mob mentalities.

      As far as your skepticism of constitutional amendments, I agree. Marsy’s Law already exists as a statute. Supporting it may play well as a sound bite, but a constitution just isn’t the place for anything other than the most general outline of how our government should function.

  8. Thanks for the updates. Amendment 5 on Schools with the ability to raise a 1% sales tax is not a good idea.
    1) School systems, in most cases already have the ability to raise property tax rates without questions.
    2) The Fulton County School system already has the most archaic rules of penalizing low to mid income families and seniors on taxation since it appears it bases tax on on Total Income (line 27 of the 1040) and not Adjusted Gross Income (line 37 of 1040).
    3) School Systems will automatically do it since their “wish” lists of projects in long without much oversight
    4) Adding school sales tax along with MARTA and Local Governments taxes will be pushing overall sales taxes to 9 to 10%. This impacts the working poor and mid income families the most.

    • Correct, dead on. They already get 65% of property taxes in my county. SPLOST is a tax people, and they use it will, not just for what they put on the list of reasons for it.

  9. Amendments 1, 3, and 5 come off fairly straight forward in my opinion. However, amendment 2 seems a bit odd, in that it comes off lacking in purpose for existence and potentially like the politicians are merely looking to please business interest groups in the state. Finally, amendment 4 also appears like it was written out of an emotional rationalization instead of a pragmatic need, as basically everything it puts forth already exists in GA legislation and some of the other components of it look like they might do more harm than good to the justice system in the long run.

    • Amendment 1 isn’t so straightforward to me. It is not a tax increase, but it is a tax revenue reallocation. From what or whom are we taking the money to make deposits into this new fund?

    • Amendment 3 is effectively a a tax break for large, mostly out-of-state property owners at the expense of local property owners. In some counties it would decrease tax revenues on forest land by 25%. This is not fair to the local owners. Vote No.

      • JDG, I can’t find much in support of voting No on Amendment 3, which makes sense considering the wide support for it, but got anything else to back up your claim of unfairness for local owners?

  10. I am always leery of constitutional amendments. Most should be accomplished by legislation. If they are a good idea, why haven’t they been done that way? I find there are usually some important unintended consequences that keep them from passing the legislative route. A legislator told me anything to do with taxes has to go the amendment but that doesn’t seem right. I need help with that issue.

  11. Judges shouldn’t be appointed by the Governor, depending upon the party Republican or Democrat, the courts would be stacked in favor of the party in charge.
    The recent Kavanaugh fiasco should be enough to open the eyes of the voters.
    If it was voted on by the American citizens, he wouldn’t have been the next Supreme Court Justice. More we’re against it than for it with a large number of undecided.

  12. I would support a 1% sales tax (maybe even more) IF property owners would get a 10% decrease in property school taxes for each 1% in sales tax for schools.People who have children in school but don’t own property should be helping support the schools that their children attend and not JUST property owners.

    • This has long been needed to look at. Property owners should not have this year after year. It’s everyones school. Land that stays in a family generation after generation should at some point have some relief! After 3 and 4 generations, put that cow out to pasture!!!! Sales Tax is my choice. That is fair!

  13. In the town I live in they already put name in paper. As soon as your arrested the following week name goes in paper. Trial could be 6 to 12 mths away. Lol they say it’s mandatory, but as in most place according to who you are or who your parents are determines if your name is printed. Fact.

  14. Amendment 3 would give property tax breaks to a special interest group and increase the tax burden on local property tax owners. It takes away local control of property taxes and creates an unfair advantage to large, mostly out of state land owners. Please vote No.

  15. I am voting “No” on all 5. Constitutional amendments should only be for the MOST important issues.
    Example: A “good” Governor could appoint good people, but a “bad” governor could put bad people in with no time limit. Think about the issues and vote with your intellect, not your emotions.

  16. One concern I have is #5. If it’s not already, educational purposes needs to be specifically defined and the scope specifically stated.

  17. All of these appear, on the surface, to be great ideas. I love the idea of allocating tax money already being paid on sports equipment, etc, going toward conservation. The wording leaves a lot to be desired. The state apply CAN UP TO 80%. The amendment doesn’t say 80% WILL BE allocated. If left worded that way, the state can choose not to allocate ANY of the tax money to conservation.
    The wording in all 5 of the amendments should be a lot less ambiguous.

  18. We need a pro,s and cons on every ballad. In Montana we received something like that . Makes it easier to understand in simpler language.

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