Frank Lockwood was the first in line to vote Tuesday at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta. Metro Atlanta polling places reported steady lines as voters went to the polls Tuesday. Georgia voters were asked whether the state constitution should be amended to give a 10-year, $200 million boost to land conservation, solidify the state’s commitment to crime victims and cut timberland taxes. Five proposed amendments appeared on the ballot, which most notably settles the long and hard-fought races for governor and other key offices. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Support strong for constitutional amendments in Georgia

Voters eagerly agreed Tuesday to amend the state constitution to give a $200 million boost to land conservation and to ensure crime victims’ rights with a Georgia Marsy’s Law.

Five constitutional amendments and two referendum questions appeared on the general election ballot. In unofficial vote counts, all seven measures were approved by voters.

Here’s a recap of the ballot questions, including arguably the most publicized one, writing victims’ notification rights into the Georgia Constitution. Supporters of Marsy’s Law flooded Atlanta television with compelling fall-through-the crack stories by actor Kelsey Grammer and others.

Amendment 1: Land conservation

This would set aside 90 percent of existing sales taxes on sporting goods for conservation efforts. The forecasts are that this could raise $200 million over 10 years. The designation of this money for conservation, which was championed by the Nature Conservancy and others, would end after 10 years.

The vote: Approved overwhelmingly

Amendment 2: Business courts

This amendment would create statewide business courts. The sticking point is a provision that would allow the governor to appoint the judges with the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee and its House counterpart. Currently, all trial court and appeals court judges stand for election by voters.

The vote: Approved 

Amendment 3: Tax break for timberland

This amendment would create a new classification of “timberland property.” The owners of this land are expected to see their taxes go down but not to the level of the 2008 Forest Land Protection Act. For almost a decade, the state has been sending millions of dollars to local school boards and county governments that have been losing tax revenue because of that 2008 tax break. Supporters of the amendment said a study shows that the state’s working forest is taxed at rates three times higher than those imposed by neighboring states.

The vote: Approved

Amendment 4: Crime victims’ rights

Georgia law already requires that crime victims be notified of hearings and other proceedings in their cases. This would put these rights of crime victims into the Georgia Constitution, something advocates say is needed to make sure cases don’t fall through the cracks. Across the country, states are considering similar “Marsy’s laws,” named for Marsy Nicholas, a University of California Santa Barbara student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Nicholas’ slaying, her mother and brother walked into a grocery store and were confronted by the suspect.

The vote: Approved

Amendment 5: Local option sales taxes

This would eliminate the requirement that a county school district and city school district agree before calling a referendum to raise sales taxes for education. Supporters say this would eliminate one school district being able to hold another hostage.

The vote: Approved

Referendum A

This would allow a homestead exemption in jurisdictions such as the city of Atlanta that straddle more than one county.

The vote: Approved

Referendum B

This would provide a tax exemption for certain homes for the mentally disabled.

The vote: Approved

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/politics.

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