MACON, Ga. -- Next week Middle Georgians will be voting for more than candidates - there will also be amendments on the ballot.
The amendments are separated into three groups: five Proposed Constitutional Amendments, two under Proposed Statewide Referenda and one under Special Election.
PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Amendment 1: Creates the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and parks.
This will show up on your ballot as "Proposed Constitutional Amendment One," and it aims to create an "outdoor stewardship trust fund" that will reportedly take sales tax from sporting goods stores to support state and local parks and trails, and to acquire and protect conservation land.
"It just purposes sales tax money to go into a fund to buy public property and maintain public property. And to create clean public water and clean water in general so that we have habitats for wildlife," said Dr. Chris Grant, a political science professor at Mercer University.
Grant explained that Georgia has multiple trust funds and some can even be found on state tax forms.
Amendment 2: Creates a state-wide business court to lower costs, enhance efficiency and promote predictable judicial outcomes.
According to Grant this amendment would let specific judges review business cases on a state-wide level to prevent superior court judges from being labeled as "generalists."
"The idea is that businesses can have complex arrangements and it's better to have a judge that has specialized experience in hearing cases that deal with businesses," Grant said. He added that having certain judges hear these cases would lead to better decisions and decrease the chances for appeals or cases to be reversed.
Amendment 3: Encourages the conservation, sustainability, and longevity of Georgia's working forests through tax sub-classification and grants.
This amendment would provide tax benefits for those who keep forested land, instead of creating land for "commercial or agriculture use," Grant said. This serves as a reward for helping the state of Georgia, according to Grant. "There are going to be some tax benefits to keeping your land forested because it's in the best interest of the state, as opposed to developing it for commercial or agriculture use," he said.
Amendment 4: Provides rights for victims of crime in the judicial process.
Grant this amendment give crime victims the right to know what's happening with their case. He said some states have this as a requirement, and not just an opportunity. The information can vary from the hearing schedules, or even how long the case will last.
"If you've lost something through criminal activity, that you would have rights to know the disposition of the courts - where in the docket it is, how long the hearing times last, information of what's going on with the case as it goes along, if you've been the victim," Grant said.
Amendment 5: Authorizes fair allocation of sales tax proceeds to county and city schools.
Grant explained that Macon-Bibb County - like most other Middle Georgia counties - has one school system. Using south Georgia's Lowndes County as an example Grant said that some cites do things a little differently by having separate school systems for the city and county. "You can't divide the money any other way other than the proportionate students in the city school system and county school system," he said.
Authorizing fair allocation of E-SPLOST funds to city and county schools would mean the money is equally distributed based on the number of students in a given school.
PROPOSED STATEWIDE REFERENDA
Provide for a homestead exemption for residents of certain municipal corporations.
This amendment would give a tax break to any organizations or businesses across district lines. "If you have a business that might be in Bibb County and Monroe County at the same time, there's a certain advantage that's given to them in order to not force them to pay all of their homestead exemption in one county," Grant explained.
Provide a tax exemption for certain homes for the mentally disabled.
"A lot of homes that serve mentally disabled people also provide some kind of cottage industry, whether you're making something or selling something," Grant said. He said the question remains on whether these locations should be considered homes or businesses under property tax laws.
Grant compared these facilities industrial homes like those found in Macon-Bibb County. "They may have an industry they're engaged in, and that may exempt them from having to pay any property taxes that a business would have to pay," he said.
This amendment would exempt nonprofit homes from if the facility includes a business corporation in its ownership structure.
Sunday Brunch Alcohol Sales in Macon-Bibb County
Who in Macon-Bibb County wants a mimosa or bloody Mary at 11 a.m. instead of waiting until 12:30 p.m. at Sunday brunch? That's what this proposal would change for the county.
"The county provides that it will regulate and have it within the alcohol licensing boards. If you vote yes, you're voting that you can have alcohol sales between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday," Grant said.