Amendments involve conservation, community development

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Constitutional amendments on ballots often frustrate voters trying to figure out what all the legalese means, but this year, those problems should be minimal, Georgia elections officials say.

There are only three amendments on November's general election ballot, a change from past elections in which voters had to work their way through a dozen or more, said Lynn Bailey, the Richmond County Board of Elections executive director.

Still, voters would benefit from reviewing summaries of this year's ballot to get a better understanding of what they'll be voting on, she said.

For those who haven't voted early, the amendments and summaries appear below:

Summary of Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Pursuant to requirements of the Georgia Constitution, Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker, Secretary of State Karen C. Handel and Legislative Counsel Sewell Brumby hereby provide the summaries of the proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the November 4, 2008, general election ballot for consideration by the people of Georgia.

1. To encourage the preservation of Georgia's forests through a conservation use property tax reduction program.

House Resolution No. 1276

Resolution Act No. 702

Ga. L. 2008, p. 1209

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the General Assembly by general law shall encourage the preservation, conservation, and protection of the state's forests through the special assessment and taxation of certain forest lands and assistance grants to local government?"


This proposal directs the General Assembly to provide for a new method of ad valorem tax assessment of forest land conservation use property. Such property will include only tracts of forest land which exceed 200 acres except where the General Assembly has provided by general law for exceptions to the 200-acre limit under certain circumstances.

Subject to certain qualifications, an owner of such property will be able to enter into a covenant to restrict the use of the land to current use, and the land will then be taxed according to a formula based on current use, annual productivity, and real property sales data. A breach of the covenant will result in a government recapturing the tax savings and may result in other appropriate penalties.

The General Assembly is directed to appropriate funds to local government to partially offset any loss of local revenue.

The General Assembly has enacted a law to implement this constitutional amendment. This law will become effective only if the constitutional amendment is ratified by the voters. This law is 2008 HB 1211: Act No. 464, found at Ga. Laws 2008, p. 297.

A copy of this entire proposed constitutional amendment is on file in the office of the judge of the probate court and is available for public inspection.

2. To authorize local school districts to use tax funds for community redevelopment purposes.

Senate Resolution No. 996

Resolution Act No. 777

Ga. L. 2008, p. 1211

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize community redevelopment and authorize counties, municipalities, and local boards of education to use tax funds for redevelopment purposes and programs?"

EXPLANATION: This proposal affirms that the General Assembly may authorize counties, municipalities and housing authorities to carry out community redevelopment.

The proposal also revises the Constitution's provisions relative to redevelopment powers and tax allocation bonds. As revised by the proposed amendment, the current provisions for community redevelopment, after providing for such powers, will contain revised provisions relative to tax allocation bonds.

In general, tax allocation bonds are government borrowings which are repaid specifically from future growth in the property tax digest of an area under redevelopment.

Under the proposal, a general law will be able to authorize the use of county, municipal and school tax funds, or any combination thereof, to fund redevelopment purposes and programs, including repayment of tax allocation bonds. The general law may provide for such use of tax funds without regard to whether the local government approved such use before January 1, 2009. No county, municipal, or school tax funds may be used for such purposes and programs without approval by the applicable local governing body.

With respect to school taxes only, such taxes may be used for redevelopment purposes and programs only if: (1) they have been pledged for repayment of tax allocation bonds which have been judicially validated (approved by a court for issuance); or (2) such use is authorized by general law after January 1, 2009.

A copy of this entire proposed amendment is on file in the office of the judge of the probate court and is available for public inspection.

3. To authorize the creation of special Infrastructure Development Districts providing infrastructure to underserved areas.

Senate Resolution No. 309

Resolution Act No. 373

Ga. L. 2007, p. 775

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by general law for the creation and comprehensive regulation of infrastructure development districts for the provision of infrastructure as authorized by local governments?"

EXPLANATION: The proposal authorizes the General Assembly by general law to provide for the creation and regulation of infrastructure development districts. The purpose of such districts will be for the creation, provision and expansion of such infrastructure services and facilities as may be provided for by general law.

Counties and municipalities affected by the creation of infrastructure development districts will have the authority to approve creation of such districts.

The general law providing for the creation of the districts will provide for the establishment of an administrative or governing body for the districts.

Such administrative or governing bodies will be able to impose and collect fees and assessments within each district and to incur debt according to powers and limits set by statute.

The General Assembly has enacted a law to provide for the creation and regulation of infrastructure development districts. This law will become effective only if the constitutional amendment is ratified by the voters. This law is 2007 SB 200; Act No. 372, found at Ga. Laws 2007, p. 739.

A copy of this entire proposed constitutional amendment is on file in the office of the judge of the probate court and is available for public inspection.

Richmond County Sample Ballot

Contested state and local elections

U.S. Senate

q Saxby Chambliss -- Republican

q Jim Martin -- Democrat

q Allen Buckley -- Libertarian

Public Service Commissioner

(To succeed H. Doug Everett)

q H. Doug Everett -- Republican

q John H. Monds -- Libertarian

(To succeed Elizabeth Speir)

q Lauren W. McDonald Jr. -- Republican

q Jim Powell -- Democrat

q Brandon Givens -- Libertarian

U.S. Congress 10th District

q Paul Broun -- Republican

q Bobby Saxon -- Democrat

U.S. Congress 12th District

q John Stone -- Republican

q John Barrow -- Democrat

State Senate, 22nd District

q John Butler -- Republican

q Ed Tarver -- Democrat

State Senate, 23rd District

q Napoleon Jenkins -- Republican

q J.B. Powell -- Democrat


Judge, Georgia Court of Appeals

(To succeed John H. Ruffin)

q Tamela L. Adkins

q Sara Doyle

q Bruce Edenfield

q Christopher J. McFadden

q Perry J. McGuire

q Michael S. Meyer Von Bremen

q Mike Sheffield

School Board District 5

q Joe L. Scott

q James Williams Jr.

School Board District 8

q Jimmy Atkins

q Mary Oglesby

Comments (4) Add comment
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a different drum
a different drum 09/28/08 - 01:30 pm
As a personal decision I

As a personal decision I usually vote NO on these constitutional amendments if I don’t understand them completely. By voting yes we are giving power to the government that they didn’t already have. If you don’t read the fine print in the amendments there is no tell what you are agreeing to...

happypessimist 09/28/08 - 09:08 pm
Hey, so called reporter. . .

Hey, so called reporter. . . How about actually telling people what the amendments mean? Instead of reprinting the confusing, and somewhat deceptive, explanations sent out with the ballot. That's pretty lame-O for a paper this size. . . . and a week late.

corgimom 10/22/08 - 12:21 pm
I cannot fathom using school

I cannot fathom using school tax revenue on community redevelopment. That is out and out fraud and circumventing the wishes of the voters. Because community redevelopment can mean anything that the governments want it to mean, including things like shopping malls and amusement parks. Use school taxes for schools and education only!

cinhin 10/30/08 - 04:48 pm
I have studied as best as I

I have studied as best as I can and here is my resulting choices.

Amend. 1 - Vote YES - this basically keeps "green" land as forests w/benefit to the land owner if he keeps an agreement for 15 yrs to not change the use of the land....he gets 08 tax assessment. Local Gov. will be reimbursed from State for deficiencies in their revenue. Other property owners NOT affected.

Amend. 2 - Vote NO - this stems from the Atlanta area. It mainly affects blighted areas in a community. School boards involved in redevelopment of property....just not right.

Amend. 3 - Vote NO - this has been called the "Private Cities" bill in Atlanta. This will let Land Developers come in and actually be able to assess fees, etc. to homeowners. Landowners must agree 100% to the District that is created. New homeowners would have to pay no matter what. This is just not right, letting a developer be able to place fees on a landowner? This should ONLY be done by ELECTED officials. Its confusing.

I know it's not scientific info....but it's hard to write down the understanding of these bills....our Georgia congress is not apt to write Bills in "Dick, Jane, & Spot" style to begin I did my best.

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