Elected officials weren’t the only thing voted on in the state of Georgia on November 8th. Georgia residents also voted on a series of amendments to Georgia’s State Constitution, and locally many voted on SPLOSTs including in Macon-Bibb. We’ll briefly take a look at several of these and whether they passed or not.
Amendment 1 was known as the “school takeover plan”. A special favorite of Governor Deal’s, Amendment 1 if successful would have allowed the state of Georgia to create what it calls an “Opportunity School District”. The state could do this with schools that scored a 60 is lower on the College and Career Ready Performance Index for 3 consecutive years. The OSD would be headed by a superintendent like a normal school district, however unlike a normal school district, he would not be voted on by the people, but appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. An OSD could control up to 20 schools a year and 100 schools at any point in time. Each school would remain under supervision of the OSD for at least 5 years. Eventually, the state appointed superintendent would determine how best to proceed. One of the big criticisms of the amendments was the lack of local control. Amendment 1 did not pass.
Amendment 3 was an amendment to restructure the Judicial Qualifications Commission, who conducts investigations into ethical misconduct by Georgia judges and issue appropriate means and punishment if necessary. Currently, the 7 members of this commission are chosen in the following manner: 2 are judges chosen by the Supreme Court of Georgia, 3 are attorneys chosen by the State Bar of Georgia, and 2 are citizens who are not members of the State Bar and appointed by the Governor. The Amendment would restructure the commission to have members chosen by the state legislature instead of the State bar. Those in opposition to the amendment included everyone from Senator Josh McKoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, to the Georgia NAACP, and the First Amendment Foundation. They said that the commission would become more partisan, subject to the wills of the legislature, unlike the current State bar and Supreme Court appointments. Amendment 3 passed.
Amendment 4 was to use tax money from the sale of fireworks towards trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety. Supporters say this makes sense, because of the many risks posed by fireworks. However opponents believe this is short-sighted, and that the funds will be needed elsewhere in the future. In order to redirect that money, we would need another constitutional amendment. Amendment 4 passed.
In Macon-Bibb, we had our own referendum, a SPLOST. SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. It’s a one-penny tax added to the current sales tax rate. This money would go toward public use in places such as: the landfill, the courthouse, the storm water systems, roads, bridges, and other transportation, as well as public safety, recreation, and cultural and public use facilities. In the past, the SPLOST has provided Macon-Bibb with the Freedom Park Boxing Club, the College Hill Roundabout, Fort Hawkins Visitors Center, and much more. The SPLOST passed. For more info on the SPLOST and how you can see it at work, go to www.splost.info.