In 2016, there are four proposed changes to the Georgia constitution on the ballot. I’m voting NO on all of them, partly for policy reasons and partly because of flaws in the amendment process.
In response to my inquiry about these amendments, a political analyst I follow wrote to me:
ONLY THE GOVERNOR AND THE GA LEGISLATURE CAN PUT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ON THE BALLOT. ONLY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE 99% CAN DO THIS. THERE IS NO WAY ORDINARY CITIZENS ARE ALLOWED TO PUT MEASURES ON THE BALLOT IN GEORGIA. GIVEN THIS FACT, I PERSONALLY BELIEVE IT’S REASONABLE TO ADVISE OPPOSITION TO ANY AND ALL CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS OFFERED US BY THIS GOVERNOR AND THIS LEGISLATURE.Constitutional amendments are something like super-laws. When you make a new law a constitutional amendment, that means1. It cannot be set aside by a mere majority vote of the legislature and a signature of the governor. Setting aside a constitutional amendment requires a huge majority, maybe three quarters of the legislature to overturn it, and a signature of the governor, and maybe another referendum.2. once a constitutional amendment has been enacted it automatically repeals any and every other meausre that contradicts it, and enables any judge to nullify other existing and future laws and practices deemed to frustrate it as “unconstitutional” and therefore off the table.
This is my general opposition to these amendments.
Regarding each amendment, there are good opposition websites for Amendment 1, the so-called “Opportunity School District,” and Amendment 3, which would change judicial oversight. Amendments 2 & 4 are trickier, in that many Democrats voted for them.
The aforementioned political analyst wrote regarding Amendment 2, commonly know as the Safe Harbor Fund:
SR7 raises sentences for prostitution and related sex offenses. The Green Party is against raising sentences for almost everything, seeing that higher mandatory sentences are always inflicted upon those at the low economic end of the scale. When we start seeing employers jailed for cheating their workers, or banks and corporations impounded and their officers imprisoned for financial crimes we’ll reconsider. So this would be a bad law even if it was not a constitutional amendment, a law that is extra hard to get rid of.
The analyst wrote this regarding the fireworks tax amendment:
This is what is known popularly as a “sin tax” levied upon strip clubs, fireworks sales and a similar list of other unpopular establishments. The new tax is supposed to go to “first responders” which will include fire departments, but may also include police too, as well as trauma care. One big problem with this is that wealthy people and corporations are paying far far less than their share of taxes, why are we going after fireworks and strip clubs instead of the truly delinquent and wealthy? Another is that police departments are always on the lookout for ways to write their funding into law and make them bulletproof. In Chicago cops are 40% of the city budget. Why do we need extra revenue sources for fire and police protected by the status of super-duper laws, constitutional amendments? There is no good reason this should not be considered as an ordinary law, NOT a constitutional amendment, so that when and if it’s later discovered to be a bad or unjust idea it can be set aside. I advise we oppose.
Another concern I have with the Safe Harbor Fund is that I don’t know how the legislature and governor will create the body which will disburse the monies. There’s also a possibility that faith-based groups will receive these monies. The history of faith-based groups in delivery of sex-related social services is mixed.
At the end of the day, I guess I believe if something is worth funding, it’s worth funding from income and property taxes, not regressive sales taxes and fines on criminals.