Today The Augusta Chronicle begins its series of endorsements for election year 2000. Whether you agree with us or not, we hope we provide you with fodder for thought to enable you to cast an informed ballot on Nov. 7.
AMENDMENT 1 - This requires immediate removal from office of any Georgia General Assembly member convicted of a felony. If the conviction is subsequently reversed, the office-holder is reinstated for any remainder of the term, and would be reimbursed for any compensation withheld. Currently, some convicted felons still cling to their elective office. Vote yes.
AMENDMENT 2 - The legislature passed a bill allowing the state to appropriate tax relief grants to counties and school districts to be applied against the ad valorem tax bills owed by qualified homesteads in each county. The law requires the county taxing authorities to reduce the local ad valorem tax liability by the corresponding amount of the state grant applicable to each homestead. We recommend okaying this amendment; it simply confirms the power of the General Assembly to carry out the homestead tax-relief contained on the 1999 law. Vote yes.
AMENDMENT 3 - Approving this measure allows the legislature to enact a compensation program for law enforcement officers, prison guards, firefighters and emergency medical technicians engaged in hazardous work on behalf of the public. Vote yes.
AMENDMENT 4 - This would allow the state to establish financial benefits for public school personnel injured in the line of duty, and authorizes funding of the benefits through distinctive license plates honoring Georgia educators. Vote yes.
AMENDMENT 5 - We see no reason why this shouldn't pass. It allows the legislature to establish a program of compensation for state Highway Department employees permanently disabled or killed in the line of duty. Vote yes.
AMENDMENT 6 - It does not appear unreasonable to allow the ad valorem tax of boats and marine vessels held in inventory to be deferred until the time of sale. At least this is a matter that the constitution should allow to be within the decision-making power of the General Assembly. Vote yes.
AMENDMENT 7 - This increases the amount of time one must be a practicing lawyer - from five to seven years - to be eligible to serve as a state court judge. Heaven knows we need better qualified judges and this is a step in that direction. Vote yes.
QUESTION A: The legislature passed a law exempting from ad valorem taxation tractors, combines and other farm equipment used in agricultural production "by family-owned farm products producers." This simply levels the playing field for Georgia farmers. Virtually all the Southern states have eliminated this onerous tax, including all of our neighbors. Besides, the tax is collected unevenly by counties. The effect now is that some Georgia farmers are penalized more than others. Vote yes.
QUESTION B - : The legislature passed a law increasing the ad valorem tax exemption for the tools and implements of trade of manual laborers from $300 in value to $2,500 in actual value. This is tax relief for working people; give it a thumbs up.
QUESTION C - : Passage would ratify a General Assembly law granting an ad valorem tax homestead exemption equal to the maximum amount allowed under the U.S. Code to a surviving spouse of an armed forces veteran killed in action. This is the right and patriotic thing to do. Vote yes.
QUESTION D - This would provide an ad valorem tax exemption for property owned by Elks lodges and used exclusively for charitable, fraternal or benevolent purposes. The Georgia Code allows for exemption for some fraternal orders, but this would be more generous than what the law allows even for purely public charities. It says the Elks buildings need not be used exclusively for charity, but could be used solely for the benefit of the members. Because there are so many other worthwhile organizations that are also used exclusively for fraternal purposes and do not receive an exemption for ad valorem taxes, it is unfair to single out Elks lodges for this special break. Vote no.