Our state and national constitutions are the foundations upon which our government was established. While the Constitution is a blueprint for how the government is organized, it also defines and protects the rights and liberties of individuals. That’s why the process to change the Constitution was made to be so difficult. Proposed changes must pass both the House and Senate by at least a two-thirds vote. The amendments then go to the people who vote to approve or reject the changes.
As you cast your vote in this year’s General Election, you will be asked to vote for or against five proposed changes to the state constitution.
Each amendment was passed by the General Assembly during the 2010 legislative session, and will appear on the ballot for voter approval. The following is a breakdown of each proposed amendment. I want you as voters to have the information necessary to decide what is in the best interest of our state and our people as you fulfill your very important role in this process.
Amendment 1: Allows competitive contracts to be enforced in Georgia courts (HR 178)
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?”
Under this amendment, the General Assembly could permit the courts to enforce non-compete agreements, which are commonly used to ensure departing employees refrain from competing with the employer after their employment is terminated. Other examples include agreements between distributors and manufacturers, lessors and lessees and partnerships and partners. Currently, Georgia’s constitution prohibits the General Assembly from authorizing contracts that would restrict competition, leading the courts to enforce only limited non-compete agreements. The amendment also grants review powers to the courts in which they may limit the duration, geographic area and scope of prohibited activities that restrict or regulate competition to ensure the agreement is enforced only to a reasonable extent under the circumstances of the contract.
Amendment Two: Adds a $10 tag fee on private passenger vehicles to fund statewide trauma care expansion (SR 277)
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain passenger motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?”
This amendment would place an additional $10 fee on license tag and vehicle registration payments, the proceeds of which would be placed in a trauma trust fund and used to maintain and expand the state’s trauma care network. The fee would be imposed annually on each motor vehicle designed to carry 10 or fewer passengers, including pickup trucks, motorcycles, sport utility vehicles and passenger vans. Any amount in the trust fund not expended at the end of a fiscal year would remain in the trust fund.
Amendment Three: Allows the State to execute multiyear contracts for long-term transportation projects (SR 821)
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to enter into multiyear construction agreements without requiring appropriations in the current fiscal year for the total amount of payments that would be due under the entire agreement so as to reduce long-term construction costs paid by the state?”
This amendment would allow the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to enter into construction agreements without obligating the total amount of funds in a yearly budget. The DOT may extend a contract on a yearly basis, which allows them to dedicate only the necessary funds for that term period. These contracts would last no more than 10 years.
Amendment Four: Allows the State to enter into multiyear contracts for energy efficiency and conservation improvement projects (SR 1231)
“Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide for guaranteed cost savings for the state by authorizing a state entity to enter into multiyear contracts which obligate state funds for energy efficiency or conservation improvement projects?”
This amendment would allow state agencies to enter into multiyear contracts with private vendors for energy efficiency or conservation improvement projects. These contracts would allow state agencies to incur debt and obligate payments beyond the funds available in their fiscal year budget. These contracts would last no more than 10 years
Amendment Five: Allows owners of industrial-zoned property to choose to remove the industrial designation from their property (HR 136)
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the owners of real property located in industrial areas to remove the property from the industrial area?”
This amendment removes the requirement that real property must be located “on an island” prior to the owner filing a certificate to remove it from an industrial area and be annexed by an adjacent city. Georgia has only two industrial areas, located in Chatham and Jeff Davis counties.
Because the land was established years ago under a “local constitutional amendment,” a practice the General Assembly no longer uses, a constitutional amendment is needed to annex the land parcel in question.
The legislation creating each amendment can be viewed by clicking on the following links:
Amendment 1: House Resolution 178
Amendment 2: Senate Resolution 277
Amendment 3: Senate Resolution 821
Amendment 4: Senate Resolution 1231
Amendment 5: House Resolution 136
For additional information on the ballot questions, you can also visit the Secretary of State’s Web site at: http://www.sos.ga.gov/.
Sen. Tommie Williams serves as President Pro Tempore. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Toombs, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached at (404) 656-0089 or by email at email@example.com.