Choosing what's best for Georgia

How you vote on ballot measures can help shape a better state

How often do you have the opportunity to vote to save a life?

Well, you do in this election.

Amendment 2 on the Nov. 2 ballot would perform an emergency rescue on Georgia's most capable, yet endangered, emergency rooms -- the ones that are called on to save you or a loved one in the event of serious trauma.

The truly frightening reality is that even as Georgia is among the nation's Top 10 fastest-growing states, surging to near 10 million people, the state's network of trauma care centers has been shriveling from skyrocketing costs and a plunging economy: There are only 16 trauma care centers in the state, and only four of them are the most well-equipped-and-staffed Level 1 centers.

South Carolina and Tennessee, states with smaller populations than Georgia's, have more trauma centers. Officials say the numbers put Georgia's need for trauma centers at 30, nearly twice what we have now.

Moreover, virtually none of the current trauma care centers are located in a "dead zone" in the vast southern half of the state, where many residents -- and passing motorists -- are more than an hour away from the nearest trauma center. If you're not treated within an hour of a traumatic injury, your chance of survival plummets.

Without help, we'll lose ground -- fewer centers, fewer Level 1's -- when we should be catching up.

Yet, for the equivalent of about 3 cents a day per voter, Georgians can properly fund a trauma network that can save hundreds of more lives per year, through a special $10 license tag fee on automobiles. That's what Amendment 2 will do.

The modest fee makes perfect sense. It's logically connected to auto use, since 60 percent of trauma injuries are sustained in vehicle crashes. And every dime is dedicated solely to trauma funding -- this money won't be frittered away down some government rabbit hole.

It's a literal life-or-death decision this election year. Please vote yes on Amendment 2.

Here's what we recommend on the other amendments on the ballot:

Amendment 1: "Allows competitive contracts to be enforced in Georgia courts."

No.

This amendment would hand too many cards to big business -- cards they would play against employees and former employees to prevent them from starting their own businesses or getting better jobs with competitors.

The amendment seeks to allow companies to go to court to enforce even flawed "non-compete" contracts -- which are employment agreements that prevent key executives from jumping ship and taking any customers with them. Non-compete contracts are a good thing when used properly; they protect businesses from having clients stolen. But they can be used to stifle careers, too.

Big business wants this amendment so that companies can enforce even legally flawed non-compete contracts: If a provision goes too far in curtailing a former employee's livelihood, they want a judge to be able to rewrite it so it's enforceable. Currently, flawed contracts are ruled null and void, as they should be.

This is a particularly inopportune moment for such an amendment, too: This is hardly the time to be putting up obstacles to job creation.

Amendment 3: "To allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to enter into multi-year construction agreements without 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."

Yes.

It's silly for the state not to be able to embark on long-term construction projects unless it has every dollar in hand. We're good for the money. This amendment will simply clear up any confusion over the state's ability to enter into construction contracts of up to 10 years without having the full funds of the contract on hand in any given year.

Amendment 4: "Allows the state to execute multi-year contracts for projects to improve energy efficiency and conservation."

Yes.

Says one legal expert we asked: "State departments would be authorized to undertake improvements for energy efficiency or conservation, and the contractors with whom they enter these arrangements will have to guarantee that energy savings or revenue gains will offset the amounts that the state has to pay for the improvements. The amendment also eliminates legal concerns about long-term contracts having to have all funds available at the time of commencement."

Amendment 5: "Allows owners of industrial-zoned property to choose to remove industrial designation from their property."

Yes.

This amendment is needed to allow Chatham and Jeff Davis counties to bring previously designated "industrial areas" back under local government taxation, zoning and services.

Referendum A: "Provides for inventory of businesses to be exempt from state property tax."

No.

This would eliminate the state's portion of property tax on business inventory. While the tax is increasingly rare -- only six states still impose it -- the state's share of the tax is so small, relative to local property taxes, that eliminating it won't likely increase economic activity. In addition, the state is currently studying a comprehensive overhaul to its entire tax structure, so tinkering with piecemeal exemptions isn't necessary.

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