GEORGIA (WRBL) – To start the New Year, two proposed constitutional amendments and one state-wide referendum become law after Georgia voters approved them with wide majorities in the November election. All three measures passed by at least 70% of the vote.
House Resolution 164, also known as Amendment 1, which passed with 81.6% of the vote, will allow the state legislature to directly control a portion of the state’s tax revenue and collect it for specific programs on different and/or unrelated expenses.
The non-profit organization Association County Commissioners of Georgia says that since 2009, more than 60 percent of the fees collected for the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund and the Solid Waste Trust Fund have been redirected to the state’s General Fund.
The practice of moving money collected from fees to other projects has affected multiple programs in Georgia, according to the amendment’s supporters.
Now, state lawmakers will be able to decide where up to 1% of the overall state’s budget goes. The legislature will also be able to require the funded programs to report on how the money is used every year. Program funding could also be set for up to ten years at a time.
The second amendment becoming law is HR 1023, which passed with 74.5% of the vote. This amendment will allow Georgians to sue government officers, agencies, or employees of the state. Georgians will also be able to sue the state itself, at local or statewide levels if their rights have allegedly been violated.
Since 2014, Georgians who tried to sue government agencies or employees had to go to Superior Court and try to have their cases heard when they believed their rights had been violated. The Court would have to grant permission for them to sue, using a legal power called sovereign immunity, which protects the state from legal challenges that it does not consent to.
Now that HR 1023 has passed, with 73.1% of the vote, Georgians do not need permission to sue, but courts will still be able to rule on their merits of their cases to decide if their rights were violated or not, and if they deserve relief or reparations.
The last measure to pass, HB 344, allows property owned by non-profit or public charity organizations to be exempt from ad valorem taxes on those properties, so long as it is used to build or repair single-family homes, and the homes are financed by said charities solely through zero interest loans.
The approved referendum allows low income families who are in need to purchase a home with the assistance of a non-profit. However, if part of their purchase is not financed through an interest-free loan, then the full amount of that tax would be due and payable.
Lawmakers who sponsored the legislation say it’s a cost saving measure for companies that work to provide affordable housing to Georgians in need.