The Newnan Times-Herald

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Amendments approved overwhelmingly

  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • Nov. 10, 2018 - 11:37 PM

Cowetans, and Georgians around the state, gave a resounding “yes” to constitutional amendments, referenda and ballot questions. 

The five constitutional amendments and one statewide ballot questions passed overwhelmingly in Coweta and the state, while another statewide question, which gives the city of Atlanta the ability to give property tax relief to residents passed by a smaller margin – 57 percent statewide and 54 percent in Coweta. 

Senoia’s “brunch bill” question, which will allow alcohol to be sold in restaurants starting on 11 a.m. on Sundays instead of 12:30 p.m., passed with 1,387 votes, 73 percent of the vote. 

Senoia diners will be able to take advantage of the new serving hours soon – the law will take effect Nov. 25. 

The biggest winner on election day was the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, which was approved by 81 percent of Coweta voters and nearly 83 percent of voters statewide. 

The constitutional amendment approving a funding stream for the trust fund is accompanied by the “enabling legislation,” HB 332, which takes effect July 1, 2019. Under the bill, 40 percent of state sales tax revenue collected by sporting goods stores will go into the fund, and will be used to fund various conservation projects. In years that sales tax revenues drop, the allocation into the trust fund will be cut, to ensure that other state priorities receive funding in lean years. 

The trust fund will be overseen by a board of trustees made up of the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the director of the State Forestry Commission, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, two members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives and two appointed by the lieutenant governor. The appointed members must be involved in forestry, conservation, hunting, fishing or local government. The director of the DNR’s coastal resources division and wildlife resources division, and the state parks director, will be non-voting members of the board. 

State agencies and departments, local governments, and nongovernmental organizations can apply for grants from the trust fund each year. The legislation states that priority should be given to projects that have matching funds that support and promote hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing, that contribute to improve the quality and quantity of surface and ground water, that contribute to improving the water quality and flow of springs, and military lands that line up with the state’s conservation plans. 

Amendment Four, “Marsy’s Law,” enshrines victim’s rights into the state constitution, and mirrors existing laws. 

There’s no enabling legislation, so far, for a statewide business court. The constitutional amendment allowing the court and laying out several parameters for its operation has now been approved, but the court itself can’t begin operating until enabling legislation is approved laying out specific guidelines. The constitutional amendment refers, in several places, to various regulations of the court that will be “as provided by law.” Those laws don’t exist yet. 

A constitutional amendment making changes to the way forest land is valued for property tax purposes will take effect on Jan. 1, based on its enabling legislation, House Bill 85. 

The final amendment, which changes the way that Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes can be called in counties that have more than one school system, doesn’t have enabling legislation, but doesn’t appear to need it. 

The two changes approved by the statewide ballot questions take effect Jan. 1. In addition to the property tax cap for Atlanta residents, there is a change that clarifies that nonprofit homes for the mentally disabled are still tax-exempt even if business corporations are included in the ownership structure for financing purposes.