Here are my summaries of the constitutional amendments and ballot questions on which we’ll be voting in the General Election. A number of constituents have said that they found these summaries to be helpful, so I am posting them again. After each question, there is also a link to the original legislation that put the issue on our ballot:
Amendment 1: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?” HR 178
Amendment 1 deals with non-competition agreements, a contract where an employer hires an employee on the condition that the employee, upon leaving his or her job, will not engage in business activities that compete with the employer.
Under the Georgia Constitution, non-competition agreements are strictly limited as to the time period (example: two years after the termination of your employment), geographic area (example: DeKalb County for a company that operates in DeKalb), and prohibited activities (example: selling widgets if you are a widget salesman). If a court finds a non-competition agreement to be unreasonable with respect to one of these factors, the court will strike it down and treat the employment contract as though the non-competition provision is not there.
Amendment 1 would change that, enabling Georgia courts to enforce non-competition agreements by adding reasonable limitations on the time period, geographic area, or prohibited activities.
Supporters of Amendment 1 contend that the amendment will make Georgia more economically competitive as compared to other states. Some businesses prefer to locate in states where the court system is likely to enforce their non-competition agreements. This is especially true in fields like computer technology and biotechnology where companies have a strong interest in protecting their trade secrets.
Opponents argue that Amendment 1 enables courts to change the provisions of a contract, adding limitations that the parties did not see fit to include in the first place. Furthermore, although Amendment 1 could make Georgia more competitive in terms of attracting employers, the amendment also makes it easier to prevent employees from competing in their chosen profession, at least for a period of time.
Amendment 2: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain passenger motor vehicles in this state for the purposes of funding trauma care?” SR 277
If Amendment 2 is passed by the voters, an extra $10 charge would be assessed on your vehicle when you renew your tag each year. That $10 fee would be used to fund the state’s trauma system. Grady Hospital would receive some of the funds. In parts of Georgia, including portions of our Interstate highways, a catastrophic automobile accident is virtually guaranteed to be fatal because of the distance from a trauma center. Fixing this problem is why the General Assembly is giving you the chance to vote on Amendment 2.
By placing this provision in the Georgia Constitution, it ensures that the General Assembly will not be able to spend the funds for any purpose other than trauma care.
Amendment 3: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to enter into multiyear construction agreements without requiring appropriations in the current fiscal year for the total amount of payments that would be due under the entire agreement so as to reduce long-term construction costs paid by the state?” SR 821
This would allow the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to pay for multi-year construction contracts one year at a time, rather than having to appropriate the total dollar value of a multi-year contract entirely in the first year. If Amendment 3 is passed, a contract of this nature would not be allowed to last longer than ten years.
Amendment 3 would enable GDOT to work on more transportation projects at any given time. Presently, GDOT works on fewer projects at a time because all of the funds for their multi-year contracts must be appropriated up front.
Amendment 4: “Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide for guaranteed cost savings for the state by authorizing a state entity to enter into multiyear contracts which obligate state funds for energy efficiency and conservation improvement projects?” SR 1231
Amendment 4 is similar to Amendment 3, except that Amendment 4 deals with multi-year contracts for energy efficiency and conservation improvement projects, like retrofitting the lighting, plumbing, HVAC, and windows in a state building.
Multi-year contracts could be funded on a pay-as-you-go annual basis for up to ten years, thus allowing more projects to be completed without appropriating all of the funds up front. Any project undertaken pursuant to Amendment 4 would have to provide the taxpayers a guaranteed benefit in terms of saving the state more in energy and/or water costs than is spent on the project itself.
Amendment 5: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the owners of real property located in industrial areas to remove the property from the industrial area?” HR 136
Amendment 5 involves a local issue in Garden City, Georgia, near Savannah. It has no impact on DeKalb County. There is certain property located in an industrial zone in Garden City that the owners want to remove from that zone, but (believe it or not) they cannot do so without a constitutional amendment.
Statewide Referendum A: “Shall the Act be approved which grants an exemption from state ad valorem taxation for inventory of a business?” HB 482
This referendum will exempt business inventory from state ad valorem taxes. Under Georgia law, businesses are taxed on an annual basis for the inventory they have sitting on their shelves, whether in a warehouse or in a retail store. This tax makes it difficult for Georgia to compete to attract jobs compared with other states that don’t have an inventory tax. It also creates a disincentive for companies to boost the economy by acquiring more inventory.
DeKalb County Homestead Exemption: “Shall the Act be approved which amends the homestead exemption from DeKalb County ad valorem taxes for county purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of a homestead exceeds the base year assessed value of such homestead by extending the exemption for another five-year period?” SB 544
This is the five-year extension of the Property Tax Assessment Freeze that saves you money on your DeKalb County property taxes. The current freeze is set to expire at the end of the 2011 tax year. This renewal will last through 2016.
I helped to pass this renewal and strongly recommend a “YES” vote. Otherwise, a property tax increase reflecting any assessment hikes that would have occurred during the preceding five years will be included in your 2012 county tax bill.
Whenever I mention an assessment “freeze,” I receive questions as to whether the assessed value of your home is “frozen” if it declines. The answer is no. The “freeze” only serves as a ceiling on the assessed value of your home, not a floor.