(Editor’s note: The following pros and cons regarding the four Georgia constitutional amendments on today’s ballot is provided courtesy of the Georgia-based Faith & Freedom Coalition.)
- Opportunity School District (OSD)“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”
Summary:Schools rated “F” 3 years in a row by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), based on a State Board of Education accountability system, would be eligible for the Opportunity School District (OSD). The OSD superintendent would be appointed by the Governor, confirmed by the Senate, and report directly to the Governor.
Currently, 6.4% (139/2184) of the schools in Georgia would qualify for OSD.
Pros: Similar programs in other states (LA, TN, MI) have been successful.
There is correlation between poor education and poverty, and between low graduation rates and incarceration. Most high school dropouts are not criminals, but most prisoners (70%) are high school dropouts. “Education reform is the best criminal justice reform,” says Governor Deal.
Cons: The State would take over a function normally under local control, and the OSD superintendent would not be accountable to voters.
2. Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for [certain] criminal cases… and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services…?”
Background: Each year, hundreds of children in Georgia become victims of sex trafficking. The Safe Harbor Fund would provide approx. $2 million annually for services such as safe housing, counseling and medical treatment to help these victims. The only way to dedicate state funds to a particular purpose is through a constitutional amendment.
Pros: The fund will help child victims of sex trafficking. We support this amendment on our Georgia voter guides (below). For more information, see www.safeharboryes.com.
Cons: Imposes fees on particular businesses.
3. Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC)
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the Judicial Qualifications Commission [and] require the General Assembly to create and provide… for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission…?”
Background: An independent judicial watchdog agency created in 1972, the JQC has removed or forced the resignation of more than 60 judges over the past decade due to misconduct.
Pros: After a long good track record, the Commission has stumbled recently. Over the past two years, it has run through two executive directors (position currently vacant) and is now on its third Chairman. One former Chair, a judge, sought to indict attorneys who had filed an open records request in her court and is now herself the subject of complaints to the JQC.
Cons: Less agency independence. The General Assembly would appoint the majority of the new Commission members and could affect investigations of politically connected judges. One of the House sponsors of the referendum is a former judge who resigned from the bench as a result of a JQC investigation.
4. Fireworks tax
“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?”
Background, Pros, Cons: A presidential race, the future of the Supreme Court, and control of the U.S. Senate at stake, and they’re asking about a fireworks tax? You decide.