Local representatives offer opinions on proposed amendments

Published 4:53 pm Monday, November 7, 2016

When Georgia voters go to the polls tomorrow, they will have the chance to voice their opinion on four proposed constitutional amendments in addition to voting for president and local officials. We reached out to representative Jay Powell and Senator Dean Burke to see where they stand on the amendments and why they think voters should vote for or against them.

Amendment 1: A yes vote for this amendment would allow the state legislator to create an Opportunity School District, which would enable the governor’s office to take control of schools that are deemed to be chronically failing. It has been widely criticized by school boards throughout the state and educators, including Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran.

Jay Powell: “I voted for it when it came to the house floor and I am supportive of it now. I early voted and I voted for it on the early voting. I don’t think there is a silver bullet out there that is going to solve all the problems in education, but I think there are several things that we can do to improve education and this is one of them.”

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“I think that the state ought to be in a position that it can step in. It’s not because the state can do it better than local folks, but sometimes a fresh set of eyes can make a difference.”

Dean Burke: “I’m in support of it, but it’s one of those that I struggled with as far as the plusses and the minuses. I keep getting back to the fact that there’s children stuck in schools that have been failing for years and years. They deserve an opportunity to get out of it. I think that who makes the final decisions, it needs to be a last resort, and not done just because they’re eligible. It needs to be done because nothing else works.”

 Amendment 2: A yes vote would allow the legislators to oppose additional penalties to offenders convicted of various sex crimes and additional assessments to adult entertainment establishments to increase funding for the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.

Powell: “I voted for it. I’m supportive of it. I think that the people that commit those crimes definitely ought to have to pay for the counseling and rehabilitation of the folks who are victims of those crimes. People that are purveyors of the sex industry certainly contribute to some of this, so there ought to be an additional fee that they contribute to the counseling and rehabilitation of victims of these crimes.”

“Part of having the reason for having this extra fine and the ability to levy fines in the constitution is to make sure that the constitution can’t use it for paving roads. We could raise the fines for all this stuff without it being dedicated in anyway; the reason it’s in the constitution is to restrict the ability of the legislators to redirect it.”

Burke: “I’m in support if it. I think that children that are tied up in that area need a lot of counseling and support to get them to turn their lives around and I think it’s only fair that the people involved in that area help support that from a financial standpoint.”

Amendment 3: A yes vote would allow the legislators to abolish the current Judicial Qualifications Committee and allow for the creation of a new JQC by the legislators with the ability to oversee and remove judges.

Powell: “The Judicial Qualifications Commission is a good thing and it will continue to be a good thing if this constitutional amendment passes. There is no way to remove bad judges without the Judicial Qualifications Commission except through impeachment.

“This is the only body where they have the power to do something, and yet the majority of folks that are appointed are from somewhere outside of government…There’s no way to remove these people and you’ve got folks in there that have misbehaved. You’ve got folks in there that don’t go to meetings so there is some dysfunctionality in that organization…It is not a power grab by the legislation. It is a mechanism to fix.”

Burke: “I’m in support of it. We heard a lot of testimony that the current committee is dysfunctional and they didn’t have any mechanism to change. I think having the setup we did, where there is a mechanism or process where people that are not doing the work they’re supposed to can be removed. It’s still not easy. It requires a super majority vote, so it’s got some safeguards in it.”

Amendment 4: A yes vote would allow for the creation of an excise tax on the sale of fireworks with the revenue used to support trauma care, fire services and local public safety purposes.

Powell: “If we’re going to get revenue from this…we have been looking for money for trauma centers for years. Since there is a relationship between fireworks and law enforcement and fireworks and trauma centers…why not take whatever revenue.”

Burke: “That one’s a little more straight forward because of my healthcare background and profession. I think that trauma commission is not fully funded and to do what they need to do they need more money and it makes sense to use it in that direction to me.”

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