Please vote Yes on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1: dedicate fees to their stated purpose

Update 2020-10-07: On Steve Nichols radio show, with video.

Don’t you think taxes and fees charged by a state should go to the purposes the state said they would? Well, in Georgia, many such funds have been mostly diverted to the general fund, and then who knows where. You can vote in this election to stop that: vote Yes on Amendment 1.

[Six cities and counties for Amendment 1]
Six cities and counties for Amendment 1: Adel, Hahira, and Valdosta, Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties.

For example, the state of Georgia charges a fee on every tire sold, with funds supposed to go to cleaning up old tires and other waste management. Yet more than $50 million of those funds have been diverted to other purposes. It’s not just tires. Other examples of diverted funds include ones for indigent defense and judicial programs, peace officer training, and teen driver training.

There is no organized opposition to Amendment 1. Pretty much the only opposition stated during passage of the authorizing bill was about being able to use funds during an emergency. The bill explicitly allows that. The bill passed the Georgia Senate unanimously and the House with only one vote against.

Organized support for Amendment 1 includes six cities and counties in the Suwannee River Basin: the cities of Hahira, Valdosta, Adel, and Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties, each of which passed a resolution in January 2019 in support of the bill that authorized putting Amendment 1 on the ballot for 2020. Also, the Valdosta Daily Times supported it in an editorial. WWALS supports Amendment 1, as do, so far as we know, all the Riverkeepers of Georgia.

Amendment 1 on the ballot

This is how Amendment 1 appears on the ballot:

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?

( ) YES

( ) NO

Please vote YES.

Addition to Georgia law

Below is the text that Amendment 1, when approved, will add to subparagraph (r)(1) to paragraph VI in section 9 of Article III of the Georgia state constitution:

(r)(1) Subject to the limitations in this subparagraph, the General Assembly may provide by general law for the creation or renewal and dedication of revenues, in whole or in part, derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended; provided that the general law dedicating such fee or tax shall reference this provision of the Constitution, provide the specific public purpose for which the revenue derived from such fee or tax shall be used, identify the agency to administer such revenue, require annual reporting of the revenues and expenses by such agency, and include an automatic expiration of such fee or tax within a period not to exceed ten years. Any such general law may also be authorized to offset, in whole or in part, the costs to the state of implementing and administering such dedication of revenue.

(2) The General Assembly shall not be authorized to dedicate state revenues pursuant to this subparagraph when the total revenues dedicated hereunder, including any nonlapsed funds, are equal to or exceed one percent of the total state revenues based on the previous fiscal year’s state revenues subject to appropriation.

(3) Any general law enacted pursuant to this subparagraph shall not be subject to the limitations of Article III, Section IX, Paragraph IV(c), relating to the lapsing of funds; Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI(a), relating to allocation of proceeds; or Article VII, Section III, Paragraph II(a), relating to payment into the general fund of the state treasury.

(4) Any general law enacted creating or renewing and dedicating revenues shall not become effective unless approved by two-thirds of the members elected to each chamber of the General Assembly in a roll-call vote; provided, however, that such a general law may be repealed by a majority vote of the members elected to each chamber of the General Assembly in a roll-call vote. Except in the case of a financial emergency as provided in paragraph (5) of this subparagraph, no amendment to any general law enacted pursuant to this subparagraph shall become effective unless approved by two-thirds of the members elected to each chamber of the General Assembly in a roll-call vote.

(5) No revenues which are dedicated by a general law enacted pursuant to this subparagraph shall be subject to any further dedication, any rededication to another purpose, or any alteration whatsoever through the general appropriations Act, or any amendment thereto, or any supplementary appropriations Act, or any amendment thereto, and any such further dedication, rededication to another purpose, or alteration shall be void and of no force and effect. If in the case of a financial emergency the Governor or General Assembly intends to suspend the dedication of revenues enacted pursuant to this subparagraph, the Governor or the General Assembly shall do so only in strict compliance with the following procedures.

(A) In the event the Governor declares a financial emergency in the state, where such financial emergency shall be deemed to exist only if the revenue collection in the most recently completed fiscal year decreased by three percent or more below the revenue estimate for such fiscal year or the state experiences three consecutive months of declining revenues during the current fiscal year, the Governor by executive order may temporarily suspend the dedication of any revenues enacted pursuant to this subparagraph, in whole or in part, and shall appropriate such revenues to maintain the fiscal integrity of the state. Such executive order and associated suspension and appropriation of dedicated revenues shall remain in effect until the fifth day of the session of the General Assembly immediately following the execution of such executive order. Any previously dedicated revenues which remain unspent as of the fifth day of such session, may be appropriated in a supplemental appropriations Act for that same fiscal year. The Governor shall not exercise this executive privilege more than three times during any ten consecutive fiscal-year period or if the General Assembly has acted pursuant to subparagraph (5)(B).

(B) In the event the Governor declares a financial emergency in the state as provided in subparagraph (5)(A) or where a majority vote of the members elected to each chamber of the General Assembly in a roll-call vote approves a joint resolution finding a financial emergency, which shall be deemed to exist only if the revenue collection in the most recently completed fiscal year decreased by three percent or more below the revenue estimate for such fiscal year or the state experiences three consecutive months of declining revenues during the current fiscal year, the General Assembly may temporarily suspend the dedication of revenues enacted pursuant to this subparagraph, in whole or part, and may appropriate such unspent revenues to maintain the fiscal integrity of the state. Such joint resolution shall not be effective for more than two consecutive fiscal years and may be adopted not more than three times in any ten consecutive fiscal-year period.

(6) No revenues which are dedicated pursuant to any other provision of this constitution by a general law enacted pursuant to any other provision of this Constitution shall be subject to any further dedication, any rededication to another purpose, or any alteration whatsoever unless specifically authorized pursuant to such other provision of the Constitution, and in the absence of such specific authorization, any such further dedication, rededication to another purpose, or alteration shall be void and of no force and effect. [5]

Text of local resolutions

Below is the text of the local resolution passed by six cities and counties. See also PDF.

RESOLUTION NO: _____________

A RESOLUTION OF THE
____________________________________________,
IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA,
REQUESTING THE PASSAGE OF HR 158 (SPONSORED BY REP. JAY POWELL, R-CAMILLA), A MEASURE ALLOWING THE GEORGIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO DEDICATE FEE COLLECTIONS FOR THEIR STATUTORILY DESIGNATED PROGRAMS

WHEREAS, Georgia’s 159 counties, more than 500 municipalities, local businesses, and citizens annually submit millions of dollars in fees and payments to the state; and

WHEREAS, in many cases these fees were created to aid local governments in implementing programs such as hazardous waste cleanups, clean community programs, indigent defense and judicial programs, peace officer training, and teen driver training; and

WHEREAS, the state government significantly redirects these fees to fund unrelated portions of the state budget; and

WHEREAS, without funding from these fees, local governments often must raise taxes to fund programs designed to keep their citizens healthy and safe; and

WHEREAS, regarding the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund and Solid Waste Trust Fund, nearly 40 percent of the $469 million collected since 1993 has been diverted from its designated purposes; and

WHEREAS, in the case of the teen driving program known as Joshua’s Law, which generates between $3-$10 million annually, only about $8 million has been used to fund teen driver programs since the program’s creation in 2005; and

WHEREAS, with respect to the Peace Officer & Prosecutors Training Fund that generates an estimated $27 million annually, an estimated $70 million was redirected to fund unrelated portions of the state budget between 1987 and 2009; and

WHEREAS, because of these diversions of fees, tire dumps and hazardous waste sites remain untouched, teen drivers have inadequate guidance, and peace officers cannot get funding for additional and necessary training programs; and

WHEREAS, these diversions of fees are therefore detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens; and

WHEREAS, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia support legislation to end the practice of these fee collections becoming de facto taxes.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE _______________________, IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA, AS FOLLOWS:

that the ________________ supports legislative efforts to address this ongoing funding problem for local governments by adopting a constitutional amendment authorizing the General Assembly to establish dedicated trust funds.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Georgia General Assembly should adopt a resolution on this issue, such as HR 158, during the 2018 legislative session so that a constitutional amendment can by put before voters in November 2018.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Governor of the State of Georgia should sign and approve such constitutional amendment resolution.

ADOPTED by the _____________________________, in the State of Georgia, this _____ day of ____________, 2018.

Upon adoption of this resolution, copies of the full resolution shall be mailed or electronically submitted to the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the local legislative delegation.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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