2016 Voter Guide Part II - Judicial Qualification and Fireworks Amendments

Senator Elena Parent
The Parent Press

Amendment Three - Judicial Qualifications Commission

BALLOT PREAMBLE: Shall the Georgia Constitution be amended to reform and re-establish the Judicial Qualifications Commission and provide for its composition, governance, and powers?

BALLOT QUESTION: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?

Summary: Under current law, the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) is comprised of two judges selected by the Georgia Supreme Court, three lawyers appointed by the State Bar of Georgia and two citizens appointed by the Governor. The proposed constitutional amendment would change the appointment powers: appointments would be made by the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor and the Governor. The public will now be denied access to a judge's disciplinary hearing before the JQC for the first time.

Elena's Opinion:

I am strongly against Amendment 3 and will vote no. This amendment eliminates the JQC as an independent constitutional entity and puts political appointments in its place. As such, it makes the oversight of our judiciary less democratic and more political. And indeed, it appears that at least some of the impetus for the passage of this Amendment is dissatisfaction with actions of the JQC by members of the Legislature, one of whom happens to be a former judge who was investigated by the JQC.

Furthermore, the Legislature's work on this has been the reverse of thoughtful policymaking. Hearings should have been held to take testimony to determine what exactly is wrong with the system the way it is and then a solution addressing those perceived flaws should have been crafted. Instead, hearings are being held NOW to determine those things. I consider the passage of this Amendment to be mostly a political power play. This is actually all you need to know to understand why you should vote against Amendment 3.

Conducting a Google search will bring up other interesting articles, if you so choose to immerse yourself further.

Amendment Four - Fireworks Tax Revenue to Trauma Care, Fire Protection & Public Safety

BALLOT PREAMBLE: Shall the Georgia Constitution be amended to dedicate revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety?

BALLOT QUESTION: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?

Summary: Amendment 4 will dedicate the proceeds from a general excise tax on fireworks to support funding for fire protection services, trauma care and public safety. The intent of the amendment is to establish a permanent revenue source that may not be diverted by the legislature without repeal of this amendment by the people.

Elena's Opinion:

I will vote yes for this amendment. If passed, this creates a permanent fund for trauma care, fire safety and public safety, all of which are impacted by the legalization of fireworks in Georgia. The use of the excise tax for this purpose should provide a direct funding stream to ameliorate any harms created by the use of fireworks.

DeKalb Homestead Tax Ballot Question:

A "yes" vote will extend the existing Homestead property tax assessment freeze (applicable to County taxes only) until 2022.

As always, thank you for your support! Please email me at elena@elenaparent.com or call me at (404) 656-5109 for further information on any of these issues.