We Amend Our Constitution A Lot

I promised last week to cover proposed constitutional amendments this week, so here’s a stab at it.

First up, Distribution of Sales Tax Revenue from School District Referendums Amendment. I won’t bore you with the details, it fixes the current law so that counties that have cities with school systems can also have ESPLOST. Right now, Fulton, DeKalb, Hall and maybe a couple of other counties, can’t do or apportion an ESPOST because there are multiple school “systems” in the county. It was an inadvertent error when the law was originally passed. Vote YES.

Second, Forest Land Conservation and Timberland Properties Amendment. I wish I understood it better, but I spent a good amount of time researching it and can’t hardly figure it out. No one I’ve talked to understands this amendment and thus, for now, I vote NO. If I can figure out what it means, I’ll let you know.

Third, Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights Amendment. It’s hard to vote against a victim’s crime bill of rights. Sounds like “mom, apple pie and America.” And I won’t, but it is a shame that it has to come to a constitutional amendment to get the court system to treat victims better. In theory, prosecutors and judges represent the whole of the “State of Georgia.” It’s the “State” versus the defendant because the defendant allegedly broke a law. So the victim isn’t really a party to the matter, it’s the “State” that is the party. But since victims are part of the State, there is nothing wrong with giving the victim a voice in the case. This amendment seeks to mandate such. 31 other states already have Marsy’s Law, we should join the movement. Vote YES.

Fourth, Georgia State Business Court Amendment. I’ve written a bit about this one and will write more indepth about it when we get closer to voting time, but this amendment treats big corporations special. They would no longer have to answer to us peons. They would be exempt from facing a jury, instead appearing before non-elected, governor appointed “star chamber” judges in a special court in Atlanta. It’s great to be special. However, it’s hard to amend a Constitution to make yourself special because that requires peons to vote for you specially. At least I hope it is hard. Vote NO.

Fifth, Georgia Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Sales Tax Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund Amendment. This is a feel good law. They’ll take up to 80% of the sales tax from certain outdoor recreational equipment and dedicate it to protect and conserve land. Warms the heart, I know. The Legislature could do this tomorrow, but since they don’t have the willpower to follow their own laws, they propose a constitutional amendment that binds them to do it. “Up to 80%” gives them plenty of leeway as well. So this amendment is all show and not enforceable. Vote NO.

Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at kelly@burkelasseterllc.com to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website  www.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.


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