Mike Klein Online

Trauma Care, Five Other Ballot Questions Go Before Voters on Tuesday

This article was written for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Next week Georgia voters will decide whether to enact five proposed constitutional amendments and one referendum question.  This article contains short summaries of all six ballot measures.   Additional information is available on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. You are invited to discuss the proposed amendments by clicking on “Leave A Comment” at the bottom of this article.

Proposed Amendment #1: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?”

What It Does: As a practical matter, passage would enable Georgia corporations and companies to enforce non-compete agreements with senior executives and others in lower job classifications when the company decides the employee holds confidential information.

Last year the Georgia business community supported passage of House Bill 173 which says post – employment non-compete agreements of two years or less are reasonable. Governor Sonny Perdue signed the bill but enactment requires a constitutional amendment.

House Bill 173 would give Georgia courts authority to revise non-compete agreements entered into by employers and employees without overturning the entire agreement.  Amendment approval means HB 173 would become law on Wednesday, November 3.  Rejection of the amendment means the statute would be automatically repealed.

The proposed amendment could limit options for some persons to work in the same field after an employee leaves previous employment.  Language within the amendment does not make clear how this would pertain to persons who work in firms that do business across state lines or internationally, which often is the case with senior and other key executives.

Proposed Amendment #2: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain passenger motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?”

What It Does: Advocates have done a good job explaining why Georgia should upgrade trauma care center resources, especially outside metropolitan areas where trauma care is not readily available.  Some $80 million in estimated annual revenue would assist Georgia’s 17 designated trauma hospitals and provide funds to upgrade other hospitals from acute care to trauma center status.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Hospital Association and several other statewide medical associations have made passage of this amendment a full-blown statewide initiative. They point out that the state has just four trauma care centers south of Macon.

Virtually all private vehicles including motorcycles and pick-up trucks would be subject to the annual $10 trauma charge.  But Senate Resolution 277, the legislation that proposed the constitutional amendment, made clear that state government vehicles would be exempt.

There is near universal consensus that Georgia should improve its trauma care capabilities.  Critics fall into two camps:  Those who believe that amending the state constitution is not an appropriate course of action, and those who believe trauma care needs should be addressed through conventional General Assembly funding.  The state also tried to address trauma care funding through a so-called super speeders law that went into effect January 1, 2010.

Proposed Amendment #3 : “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to enter into multiyear construction agreements without requiring 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?”

Proposed Amendment #4: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide for guaranteed cost savings for the state by authorizing a state entity to enter into multiyear contracts which obligate state funds for energy efficiency or conservation improvement projects?”

What These Do: The Georgia constitution says state government agencies may not enter into contracts with vendors that obligate the state to make payments beyond funds available within the current fiscal year.  These proposed amendments would create exemptions for transportation and for projects to improve energy efficiency and conservation.

Under Proposed Amendment #3, the General Assembly could authorize transportation contracts with private sector vendors for periods not greater than ten years.  Transportation contracts would terminate in the event of insufficient project funds.  Legislation drafted for the 2011 General Assembly is expected to address how to safeguard against overextending obligations.

The energy bill purpose is similar with slightly different implementation.  Energy vendor contracts could be written for periods up to twenty-five years.  Vendors would be required to guarantee specified savings or revenue gains solely attributable to energy improvements.  The guarantee would be satisfied by placement of funds into escrow accounts.

Supporters and critics line up in essentially two camps:  Supporters believe both amendments are good business practices that make projects more manageable and fiscally responsible.  The second camp is those who are concerned about the state incurring long-term unfunded debt.

Proposed Amendment #5: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the owners of real property located in industrial areas to remove the property from the industrial area?”

What It Does: This amendment would enable owners of industrial area properties in Chatham and Jeff Davis Counties to have their land annexed by cities that already provide water or fire services.  These properties are the state’s last industrial areas created more than 50 years ago under “local constitutional amendments” that stipulated the property could never be annexed to a city.

“Local constitutional amendments” were eliminated by the state constitution that went into effect in 1983, but existing properties were grandfathered.  In 1996 Georgia amended its constitution so owners whose industrial area property was located on an island could annex to a city.  This amendment updates the idea to include property not included on an island.

Statewide Referendum Question: “Shall the Act be approved which grants an exemption from state ad valorem taxation for inventory of a business?”

What It Does: Georgia voters could impose an early kill date on the state portion of the business inventory ad valorem tax.   Most business inventory ad valorem revenue goes directly to local jurisdictions and the fiscal impact would be small on the state budget. There are several arguments in favor of the amendment and against continuation of the tax.  Georgia law allows several exemptions; just 14 other states impose a similar tax; and, this year the General Assembly passed legislation to eliminate the state business inventory ad valorem tax in 2016.  Amendment passage would eliminate the state tax on January 1, 2011, and for all subsequent years.

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

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October 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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