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Ballot choices change judges watchdog group, fund victims, EMS
Georgians pass 3 of 4 amendments to constitution in Tuesdays election
Voters line the hallway Tuesday morning at Gainesville First United Methodist Church waiting cast their ballots.

Though the first ballot amendment on schools failed, Georgia voters on Tuesday supported three other provision by high margins.

Almost 60 percent voted against the Opportunity School District amendment, which would have provided greater state government involvement in failing schools.

Here are how local Gainesville and Hall County stakeholders reacted to the other amendments and the likely effect of their passage. 

Amendment 2

The amendment created greater penalties for those convicted of “keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering,” and other sexual crimes. It would also allow assessments on adult businesses to help fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.

Heather Hayes, executive director of the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children, said she first learned of the local push for the second amendment at a Junior League meeting.

A call to management of the Top of Gainesville adult club for comment was not returned.

The amendment passed by the highest margin of all ballot choices, with 83.3 percent in favor.

“Coming from different places in the community to see that kind of support for something, I think it’s that universal push that people want to see victims supported. They want better response to victims,” Hayes said.

A similar program is in existence with the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program, which helps victims and families for medical expenses, counseling and other economic support.

“A lot of the costs that victims go through, such as therapy, having to move homes, maybe replace items, change schools ... they really incur those costs on their own. That healing process can actually take a lifetime,” Hayes said.

Jennifer Robson, the administrative guru at Straight Street Revolution Ministries, expressed concern about how the funds might be dispersed.

“My only concern is that if the government is controlling the funds or extra taxes from that, how do we for sure know it’s going to organizations? Especially us being a Christian nonprofit, what will be the ties to that money if the government is handing it out?” Robson asked.

Amendment 3

State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said the third amendment was “equally as controversial as the Opportunity School District, but it didn’t have the publicity.”

Amendment 3 changed the construction of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, an independent group that investigates alleged improper behavior by judges. It would allow for the majority of the commission to be appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.

More than 62 percent of Georgia voters said yes.

Attorney Arturo Corso said he was “very disappointed” by the decision Tuesday, adding tricky language may affect how some voted. “They’ve really corrupted what was a fair and neutral system,” he said.

Others have expressed previously to The Times that the change would possibly instill more public trust with a change.

Amendment 4

Amendment 4 would take a 5 percent excise tax on fireworks and put the money toward emergency medical services and trauma care. More than 81 percent voted in favor.

At Xtreme Xplosives, owner Jason Sillay said he believes the money is going right where it belongs.

“We’re still charging the same 5 percent excise tax,” he said. “It’s just now going to where it should go in my opinion, instead of ending up in some plush fund somewhere that just gets spent willy-nilly.”

Sillay said it would not affect his pricing.

The Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission receives 55 percent of the revenue generated from the fireworks excise taxes. The commission coordinates efforts between facilities across the state after its creation in 2007.

Hall County Fire Chief Jeff Hood said another 40 percent of the revenue would go to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council, as it pertains to better training and equipment for first responders. The final 5 percent would go to local governments.

“Over time, I feel like we will have some trickle down,” he said.

In response to the amendment’s passing, Hood said he believes citizens realize how EMS is “incredibly crucial.”

“Everyone at some point will need that service, and they want it to be the best it can be,” he said. 

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