Amendments on ballot in plain English

Published 1:15 pm Monday, November 7, 2016


AMERICUS — In addition to all the national, state and local races that will be determined in Tuesday’s General Election, there are also four amendments to the Georgia Constitution on the ballot.
Amendment 1: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement,” as it is worded on the ballot, followed by the question for voters, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”
To simplify, this amendment allows for three models for governing schools under an “Opportunity School District” (OSD) agency: direct management by the OSD, shared governance between the OSD and local board of education, and transformation of the school into a charter school. Schools could also be closed as a last resort, according to Ballotpedia, and “no more than 20 schools would be taken in by the OSD per year, and no more than 100 schools would be governed by the district at any one time. Schools would stay in the district for five to 10 years. Schools would be considered “persistently failing schools” that could fall under the purview of the OSD if they score below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education accountability measure.”
Opponents do not want local control taken away by those who will be appointed by the Governor and unaccountable to the public.
Amendment 2: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children 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 for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited?”
Approval of this amendment will provide for additional penalties and fees for those convicted of the crimes listed above, and to impose assessments on adult entertainment establishments, with all the revenue allocated to the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.
Amendment 3: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?”
This amendment concerns the makeup of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which acts as a watchdog of judges in the state.
Those for the amendment believe the State Bar of Georgia is a “special interest group,” that is unaccountable. It would take the Bar completely out of appointments to the JQC and replace with the lieutenant governor and the Speaker of House to make appointments.
The opponents of the amendment do not feel comfortable with the government being in total control of the commission, fearful that partisan politics will strip the commission of its purpose.
Amendment 4: “Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety.”
The amendment is straight forward in its intent, but is still opposed by some who feel it places a burden on low-income Georgians.