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ASK THE EXPERTS

Understanding amendments on the ballot

POSTED: October 6, 2010 9:58 a.m.

Many voters do not understand the five proposed State Constitutional Amendments on the November ballot and have asked me what they mean. 

  

Here’s my understanding of them.

  

Amendment One: Allows competitive contracts to be enforced in Georgia courts (HR 178).

  

Currently, all but eight states allow some form of the review powers provided by HR 178. In order to attract businesses to Georgia and to keep them here, as well as to provide clear and consistent guidelines for employees and employers alike, we must allow courts the ability to ensure the reasonableness of employment agreements. 

  

Amendment Two: Adds a $10 tag fee on private passenger vehicles to fund statewide trauma care expansion (SR 277).  This additional $10 annual fee on license tag and vehicle registration payments would be put into a trauma trust fund. Georgia’s trauma care system is in desperate need of a source of funding. This funding mechanism will ensure that Georgia can maintain a reliable trauma care network. Any amount in the trust fund not expended at the end of a fiscal year would remain in the trust fund. 

  

Amendment Three: Allows the state to execute multiyear contracts for long-term transportation projects (SR 821). This is a transportation bill whose intent is to allow the Department of Transportation the ability to enter into multi-year construction contracts without having to obligate the total amount of the funds in a yearly budget. The Department of Transportation may extend a contract on a yearly basis, which allows them to dedicate only the necessary funds for that term period.  A contract of this nature, however, cannot last longer than 10 years.

  

Georgia’s economic growth is directly correlated to the expansion and modernization of its transportation infrastructure. This measure gives the Department of Transportation the ability to start multiple projects within their budget allocations in order to maximize that growth. A failure to pass this resolution would limit the number of projects the Department of Transportation can begin and maintain.  

  

Amendment Four: Allows the State to enter into multiyear contracts for energy efficiency and conservation improvement projects (SR 1231): Performance contracts would allow state agencies to divert funds that would normally be spent on utility bills into building improvements that lower energy consumptions. Our government should examine ways and programs that conserve energy. This amendment gives those entities the ability to examine all conservation possibilities and greater flexibility to engage those options.

  

Amendment Five: Allows owners of industrial-zoned property to choose to remove the industrial designation from their property (HR 136: This bill removes the requirement that real property be located “on an island” prior to the owner filing a certificate to remove it from an industrial area, and be annexed by an adjacent city.

  

This referendum involves a local issue in Garden City, Ga. Because it was established many years ago under a “local constitutional amendment,” a practice the General Assembly no longer utilizes, a constitutional amendment is needed to annex the land parcel in question. 

  

For additional information on the ballot questions, you can also visit the Secretary of State’s Web site at: www.sos.ga.gov.  

  

Another concern is the extended time for early voting. It’s too long and costs counties a lot of money to fund from their already meager budgets. Several bills will be introduced in the next session of the General Assembly to reduce the early-voting period to something more manageable.

  

Since the sorry state of the economy is affecting all of us, some thoughts on the economy are appropriate.

  

The National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Many economists disagree that the recession is over.  Last week in the Sept. 28 edition of The Gainesville Times, Dr. John Scott (North Georgia College & State University) predicted a double dip in this recession. For me, the prediction of the worst inflation in 100 years was the most disappointing news. I remember quite well the late 1970s with double digit inflation and interest rates.

  

Scott’s statement is worth repeating: “I expect the greatest inflation since the Civil War with all the money we have in the system. I also expect lower long-term growth, and I think our government’s reaction to the crisis will cause problems for years.” 

  

Many years ago I asked my grandfather the difference between a recession and a depression. His answer was simple: “It is a recession when my neighbor is out of work and a depression if I am out of work.”

  

No matter who calls our present economic situation what, we must put America back to work.

  

George Santayana’s famous quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” comes to mind.

  

Our government in Washington seems to have forgotten history and is repeating some of the same mistakes. They need to focus on jobs first and let ideology take a back seat.

   

Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, Ga. 30533; phone (706) 864-6589; e-mail hamerson@windstream.net.

 

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