Local club to hold forum on four constitutional amendments on ballot

Published 7:57 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In addition to the presidential election and various Georgia and Decatur County elections, four constitutional amendments will appear on voters’ ballots this fall that could have big implications on the state’s educational and judicial systems, among others.

Luckily for Decatur County voters, the local Civics 101 club will hold a meeting next Monday, Oct. 24, where speakers such as Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran and Superior Court Clerk Cecilia Willis will talk about these four amendments and clarify what they mean before you enter the polls between now and Election Day.

Decatur County residents should be aware of these four amendments before voting “Yes” or “No” on their ballots.

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Amendment 1: Opportunity School District

If passed, this amendment would allow the state to take over and manage struggling school systems and any funds allocated to them, creating an “opportunity school district”.

These schools would be appointed a new superintendent by Gov. Nathan Deal, who would have control over their budgets and the authority to hire and fire teachers and principals.

The creation of an OSD has three different models: the state governs with the local school board; the state directly manages the school system; or a charter school is formed.

The OSD would be allowed to take control of up to 20 schools per year that are deemed to be “failing” and up to a maximum total of 100 schools.

Amendment 2: Exploited Children
A “yes” vote for this amendment would create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, which would provide help for children who are victims of sexual crimes in Georgia.

Additional penalties of up to $2,500 on convicted sexual criminals and a new $5,000 annual tax on adult entertainment businesses in the state will go toward agencies, rehabilitative services and faith-based organizations that help child victims of sexual abuse.

Amendment 3: Judicial Qualifications Commission

Voting yes for amendment three would abolish the current Judicial Qualifications Commission, which has conducted investigations and hearings in response to complaints on ethical miscon-duct by Georgia judges since 1972.

The amendment would change appointment powers, currently held by the State Bar of Georgia, and give them to the speaker of the house, the governor and the lieutenant governor. The state bar would still provide a list of nominees for commission members.

The new commission would have the authority to discipline, remove and cause the “involuntary retirement of judges,” the legislation states.

Amendment 4: Fireworks Tax Revenue

If this amendment is passed, tax revenue from the sale of fireworks will go toward trauma care, fire services and local public safety services in Georgia.

Senate Bill 350 states that 55 percent of the tax would be provided to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission, 40 percent provided to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council to be used exclusively for improving equipment and training of firefighters and 5 percent provided to the local governments for public safety purposes.

The Civics 101 meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library in Bainbridge.