The Nov. 8 presidential vote is getting most of the attention heading into Election Day, but Georgia voters take note: Your ballot also gives you a say on who runs your local schools, trauma care funding, judicial oversight and help for victims of sex trafficking.
Here’s a quick look at the four proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot statewide:
QUESTION 1 — School takeovers by the state
Official ballot wording: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?
What it means: Would allow the state to take control of local schools deemed to be perennially failing by creating a state agency to oversee what would be dubbed an “Opportunity School District” statewide. Gov. Nathan Deal has lauded this signature issue as a way to break the cycle of chronically failing schools, especially in low-income or minority communities. It has been met, however, with howls of protest from educators and others who say it creates another layer of bureaucracy but misses the point of why low-performing schools struggle. Opponents have also sued, alleging the wording of the amendment is “misleading.”
QUESTION 2 — Funding for child victims’ services
Official ballot wording: 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?
What it means: Would create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, providing a dedicated source of state funding for victims’ housing, counseling and medical treatment. It would be paid for through new $2,500 fines for anyone convicted of human trafficking crimes and from a new $5,000 annual fee on strip clubs and other adult businesses.
QUESTION 3 — Judicial watchdog makeover
Official ballot wording: 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?
What it means: Would remake the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates allegations of judicial impropriety and has the authority to remove judges. Some have said it is an attempt to gut the commission’s independence to serve as a watchdog agency. The measure would take the appointments of three commission members now made by the State Bar of Georgia and give one each to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.
READ MORE: Amendment 3 Judicial Qualifications Commission: Is this amendment based on reform or political payback?
QUESTION 4 — Fireworks taxes for trauma care
Official ballot wording: 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?
What it means: Would dedicate an existing 5 percent sales tax on fireworks toward the state’s trauma care network, training and equipment for Georgia firefighters, and local governments’ public safety efforts.
AJC Voter Guide: The AJC has partnered with the Georgia League of Women Voters to produce an online voter guide for contested elections and referendums on the ballots in each metro county. ajc.com/voterguide
Learn more: In print and online, the AJC news reporters will offer explanations and previews of local and county races and referendum.
For more information about local ballot issues, choose from the links below.
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