Most people will be going to the polls on November 8th for one reason – to choose the next leader of the free world. No big deal right?
Also on the Georgia ballot though are four constitutional amendments of varying degrees of importance and public knowledge. The first, the “Opportunity School District” amendment, is of course the most hotly debated of the four, with well documented big money and big names on both sides of the argument.
The second would levy additional fees on people convicted of sex crimes as well as on ‘adult’ businesses, (think strip clubs) to go into the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.
Amendment number three would replace the Judicial Qualifications Commission, a move which has been heavily criticized because the man behind it, Representative Johnnie Caldwell, was stripped of his judgeship by the commission for sexual harassment. Now a state legislator, he is seeking to disband the commission and replace it with one hand picked by the legislature. No small surprise that eyebrows are being raised.
All three of the above amendments are pretty heavy, particularly compared to the fourth, a small ballot that simply reads, “Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety”. With fireworks recently legalized in the Georgia, it seeks to appropriate tax money from their sale towards making sure they remain safe. A no brainer right? But the question is why does something like this need a constitutional amendment at all?
The answer is in the Georgia Constitution itself.
Paragraph VI of section 9 of the Georgia Constitution reads:
“Appropriations to Be for Specific Sums (a) Except as hereinafter provided, the appropriation for each department, officer, bureau, board, commission, agency, or institution for which appropriation is made shall be for a specific sum of money; and no appropriation shall allocate to any object the proceeds of any particular tax or fund or a part or percentage thereof.”
Essentially it is illegal to directly appropriate any specific tax toward a specific use, as the fireworks amendment, (and amendment 2 for that matter) seeks to do. Senate Bill 350 laid the framework to determine where to allocate the funds, but a constitutional amendment is required to actually make that allocation legal.
So there you have it, the constitutional reason why you’ll find such a seemingly innocuous ballot question when you make your way to the front of the polling lines on November 8th.