Highlights of Meeting on October 17, 2016

Tonight’s guest was State Representative, Alan Powell, who spoke on the pros and cons of the 4 state constitutional amendments which will be on the November 2016 ballot.

1.  The “Opportunity School District” amendment would allow a new State agency to take control of a failing school from the local Board of Education.  This agency would monitor and assist the school until it passed all State assessments, at which time it would be allowed to return to local control.  Georgia’s State Constitution ultimately says local authorities rule their schools, but this amendment would basically nullify that if a school was determined to be ‘failing’. 

2.  The “Funding for Child Victims’ Services” amendment would provide a dedicated source of state funding for victims’ housing, counseling, and medical needs.  Funding would come from fines for anyone convicted of human trafficking crimes and an annual fee on adult businesses.  Rep. Powell’s primary objection to this amendment was that
‘dedicated funds’ are often siphoned from the dedicated fund pool into the general fund.

3.  Amendment 3 is commonly referred to as the “Judicial Watchdog Makeover”.   This amendment would abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission and require the General Assembly to create a new Judicial Qualifications Commission which would have the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges, etc.  It would allow the legislature to determine the composition of the JQC by putting 10 attorneys and 2 non attorneys on the commission. 

4.  The final amendment concerned excise taxes on fireworks which would be dedicated to trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and public safety.  Rep. Powell noted again this appears to be another ‘dedicated fund’ which may be tapped for other uses.

In closing, Rep. Powell stated that he feels the State of Georgia tries to be fiscally responsible but voters should ask questions of their elected officials and be informed of all issues they will be voting on.