On the Ballot: Georgia sees two proposed constitutional amendments, one referendum on November ballot

Georgia

(Sample ballot for Muscogee County, Georgia Nov. 3 2020 election)

GEORGIA (WRBL) – As the country moves closer to the Nov. 3 elections, the focus has been on Senate seats, primaries and the presidential race. But in Georgia, there are also two proposed constitutional amendments and one state-wide referendum on the ballot.

For constitutional amendments, you have House Resolution 164 and House Resolution 1023. While politics and legislation can get murky, let’s break down what each of the two amendments is supposed to do:

House Resolution 164/Act No. 597:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended?

Ballot description for HR 164

Essentially HR 164, also called Amendment 1, would prevent the state legislature from using tax revenue that is collected for specific programs on different and/or unrelated expenses.

The resolution, which has bipartisan support, says that if signed into law, the General Assembly would be able to dedicate revenues, “in whole or in part, derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended.”

Basically, Georgia’s lawmakers would be able to keep specific fees or taxes for use only on projects they were collected to work toward.

If the measure passes, state agencies would also be required to provide annual reports on how the revenues are used and on what expenses, with each program authorized for 10 years before coming up for renewal or cancellation.

—-> | Learn more about Amendment 1 here.

House Resolution 1023/Act No. 596:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to waive sovereign immunity and allow the people of Georgia to petition the superior court for relief from governmental acts done outside the scope of lawful authority or which violate the laws of this state, the Constitution of Georgia, or the Constitution of the United States?

Ballot description for HR 1023

House Resolution 1023, or Amendment 2, focuses on sovereign immunity, a right of a government to not be sued without its own consent.

Amendment 2, if passed, would allow Georgia residents to:

“…seek declaratory relief from acts of the state or any agency, authority, branch, board, bureau, commission, department, office, or public corporation of this state or officer or employee thereof or any county, consolidated government, or municipality of this state or officer 16 or employee thereof outside the scope of lawful authority or in violation of the laws or 17 the Constitution of this state or the Constitution of the United States.”

In layman’s terms, Georgia residents would be allowed to sue officers, agencies, or employees of the state, and the state itself, at local or statewide levels if their rights are infringed upon by the aforementioned parties.

Additionally, the amendment would further waive sovereign immunity to allow the courts to then enforce the judgment to “past, current, and prospective acts” that may occur after Jan. 1, 2021.

The amendment does limit the scope of lawsuits to those entities being sued. So, a lawsuit against a county in Georgia would only apply to that county, not the state. The reverse is also true, according to the language in HR 1023.

—-> Learn more about Amendment 2 here.

House Bill 344/Act No. 149:

Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes for all real property owned by a purely public charity, if such charity is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code and such real property is held exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes to be financed by such charity to individuals using loans that shall not bear interest?

Ballot description for HB 344

HB 344 is a referendum which would allow property owned by non-profit or public charity organizations to be exempt from ad valorem taxes on those properties, so long as it is used to build or repair single-family homes, and the homes are financed by said charities through zero interest loans.

An ad valorem tax is a tax collected based on the value of a piece of real estate or property. The amount is collected annually. In practice, this means that if your home value goes up one year, your potential property tax could go up as well.

The proposed referendum says that if any portion of a property is not paid for through interest-free financing from a non-profit for an individual to buy a single-family home, then the full amount of the ad valorem taxes will be considered payable and due for collection.

Basically, if a family in need is purchasing a home with assistance from a non-profit, and are financing the purchase with a zero interest loan, they won’t have to pay an ad valorem tax on the purchase. However, if part of that purchase is not financed through an interest-free loan, then the full amount of that tax would be due and payable.

—> Learn more about the referendum here.

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