I know that many of you have already received your absentee ballots in the mail, and this week I would like to share some information about some topics you may find on your ballot. In Georgia, certain bills passed by the legislature require the approval of the citizens of Georgia. This ensures transparency and accountability for the legislature and that Georgians have a voice when additions are made to the Georgia Constitution and, this year, to determine whether the state should grant a property tax exemption.
To view a sample ballot, visit your “My Voter Page” by clicking the button below. You can also find the status of absentee ballot applications, early voting and poll locations, and your voter registration information by visiting this site.
This year Georgia voters will decide whether to add two amendments to our Georgia Constitution and whether a piece of legislation passed by the Georgia House and Senate will go into law. The two amendments that propose additions to the Georgia Constitution that passed this year are House Resolution 164 and House Resolution 1023. The legislature also passed House Bill 344, which provides a specific property tax exemption if approved by Georgia voters. These three items are Republican-led initiatives that you will be voting on this year. I am proud to have voted “yes” on each of these items when they came to the floor.
House Resolution 164 was initially introduced in the House in 2019 and was sponsored by my great friend, the late Chairman Jay Powell. HR 164, if approved by the voters of Georgia, will amend the Georgia State Constitution and allow the Georgia General Assembly to dedicate funds the state collects from fees or taxes to the purpose for which the taxes are imposed.
To ensure the fees are used for the intended purpose, the law creating the fee must refer to the amendment to the Constitution; specify the purpose for which the fee will be used; identify which state agency will administer the funds; and require an annual reporting of the use of the funds. Additionally, the fee must include a “sunset date” (or end date) no later than ten years from when the fee is first imposed. If the Governor declares a financial emergency, the dedication of the revenues may be temporarily suspended, and the revenues can be used for other purposes.
Chairman Andy Welch sponsored House Resolution 1023 in his final legislative session before retiring from the legislature. HR 1023 allows Georgians to maintain a lawsuit seeking relief from acts taken by state or local governments that are outside of the government’s lawful authority or violate the Georgia or United States Constitution.
Typically, state and local governments are entitled to “sovereign immunity,” making it more difficult for citizens to bring lawsuits against governments. This amendment to the Georgia Constitution would remove that “sovereign immunity” in these particular circumstances. No damages, attorney’s fees, or litigation costs can be awarded in a lawsuit authorized by this amendment.
Finally, House Bill 344, sponsored by Representative Matthew Gambill, establishes a property tax exemption for real property owned by a purely public charity that is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The charity must hold the real property exclusively to build or repair single-family homes that will be financed by the charity with no-interest loans. An example of this type of tax-exempt organization is Habitat for Humanity.
I hope this information is helpful to you as you cast your ballot this fall. Thank you all for allowing me to represent Georgia House District 159. It is truly an honor to work for you and this great state. If you have any feedback, do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), email, or engage on Facebook. If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.