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What these amendments, referendum on ballot mean
0407 ELEX
Voters are being mailed applications to vote absentee in the May 19, 2020, primary. - photo by Shannon Casas

Presidential, Senate, Congressional and local races have mostly dominated the discussion ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, but there are a few other items for Georgia voters to decide.  

Along with the races, ballots will include two proposed amendments to the Georgia Constitution and a proposed statewide referendum. Advance voting for the election will begin on Monday, Oct. 12.  

The full text of the proposed amendments is available on the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office website. The Georgia General Assembly voted in its most recent session to send the items to voters to decide. 

Voters can review sample ballots on the My Voter Page section of the Secretary of State’s website. 

Below are the three questions as they will appear, along with what they mean and how they came to be.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1

Authorizes dedication of fees and taxes to their intended purposes by general state law.  

What it says: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended?”  

How it got on the ballot: Georgia House Resolution 164 was approved by the state’s House of Representatives by a 164-4 vote in favor, with three not voting and nine excused. The state Senate passed it 53-0, with two not voting and one excused. Everyone in Hall County’s delegation voted in favor. 

What it means: The amendment would mean that all funds from a tax or fee would go toward what the fees or taxes were meant to address, identify the agency those funds will go toward, and require annual reporting of revenues and expenses. It would also include an automatic expiration of fees and taxes within 10 years.  

2020 voter guide

Learn more about the races on the ballot, the candidates and where they stand on the issues. 

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2  

Waives state and local sovereign immunity for violation of state laws, state and federal constitutions.  

What it says: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to waive sovereign immunity and allow the people of Georgia to petition the superior court for relief from governmental acts done outside the scope of lawful authority or which violate the laws of this state, the Constitution of Georgia, or the Constitution of the United States?”  

How it got on the ballot: House Resolution 1023 was approved by a 164-0 vote with five not voting and 11 excused in the state House and 50-0 with three not voting and three excluded in the state Senate. State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, was excused, and all others representing Hall voted in favor. 

What it means: If approved, the amendment would allow residents to challenge local or state government actions that violate state laws or the Constitution of the state or the country in the state superior court. This is currently not allowed due to sovereign immunity.      

Statewide Referendum  

Establishes a tax exemption for certain real property owned by charities.  

What it says: “Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes for all real property owned by a purely public charity, if such charity is exempt from taxation under Section  501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code and such real property is held exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes to be financed by such charity to  individuals using loans that shall not bear interest?”  

How it got on the ballot: The referendum was approved by the Georgia General Assembly as House Bill 344 with votes of 164-1 with six not voting and nine excused in the House and 54-0 with two excused in the Senate. All of Hall’s delegation voted in favor. 

What it means: If approved by voters, the referendum would mean certain nonprofit organizations exempt from federal taxes would not be charged state taxes for land used for building or repairing single-family residences.  

Times reporter Megan Reed contributed.   

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