Three statewide ballot measures are certified to appear on the Georgia ballot in 2020. All three passed the state legislature with unanimous or near-unanimous, bipartisan support.
“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?”
Special funds are established by statute or the constitution that have prescribed means of revenue to support their dedicated purposes (such as the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund, Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, and a fund for trauma care and firefighter equipment).
Under current law, money not appropriated by the legislature for special fund purposes may be put into the general fund for other purposes. For example, in 2015, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts found that $2.8 million of the revenue from the Solid Waste Trust Fund had not been appropriated for purposes directed by the fund.
Once this measure is passed, the state legislature would not be allowed to reallocate revenue from these funds to the general fund unless the governor suspends the fund.
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to waive sovereign immunity and allow the people of Georgia to petition the superior court for relief from governmental acts done outside the scope of lawful authority or which violate the laws of this state, the Constitution of Georgia, or the Constitution of the United States?”
Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine, dating back to English common law, that holds that the government cannot be sued without its express consent. However, the U.S. federal government and state governments may choose to waive sovereign immunity. (For instance, the Federal Tort Claims Act [FTCA] authorized certain lawsuits against the federal government and federal employees.)
This measure would waive the state’s sovereign immunity, thereby allowing residents to seek declaratory relief through the superior courts from state or local laws that are found to violate the U.S. Constitution, state Constitution, or state law. After granting declaratory judgment, a court would be able to enjoin (block) the law or act in question.
If approved, the state’s waiver of sovereign immunity would be applicable to acts occurring on or after January 1, 2021.
“Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes for all real property owned by a purely public charity, if such charity is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code and such real property is held exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes to be financed by such charity to individuals using loans that shall not bear interest?”
In plain English, this measure would exempt from property taxes property owned by a 501(c)(3) public charity (such as Habitat for Humanity) if the property is owned exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes and the charity provides interest-free financing to the individual(s) purchasing the home.