October 13, 2016 11:12 AM
The only people who like Constitutional Amendments on ballots are the people who write them and the people who stand to benefit from them. The rest of us despise them because we often times don’t understand what the question is asking and later find out we were mislead by legalese lawyer language. Amendment 4 on this year’s general election ballot is no different.
First, let’s talk about what Amendment 4, dealing with fireworks taxes, actually says and how it will read:
“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?“
Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services and public safety. Senate Resolution 558
Hear that? That’s the sound of your heart strings being tugged. Like most ballot amendment language, this one is intended to soften your heart and encourage you to support the people who spend time protecting us. It sounds nice.
I’ll be honest: This is the least worst amendment we’ll be voting on next month. But the least worst is still something of the worst.
Also, I’m going to have to throw a flag on the field for the “uses existing taxes” language. The only reason it’s existing is because the legislature passed a bill ATTACHED TO THIS RESOLUTION instating the tax. Can the General Assembly, for once, be honest in the language? The answer is a resounding NO because they bank on you not fully understanding what exactly will happen.
We aren’t talking about a considerable amount of money and there certainly hasn’t been any talk about how the legislation divides the tax money either. The breakdown is as follows:
- 55% to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission
- 40% to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council for the implementation of a grant program to improve ISO ratings for insurance
- 5% to local governments to aid in 911 systems
So the majority of the money goes to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission – an entity that really has no business being a recipient of tax dollars, let alone one confirmed through the Georgia Constitution.
One of the things I dislike about politics the most is that if you’re not “for” something, people assume it means you’re against it. That’s not always the case. In this instance, for example, opposing the use of state excise tax dollars for trauma centers and firefighters doesn’t mean I hate trauma centers and firefighters. It just means I don’t believe that’s the role of the state government.
The State of Georgia has no vested governmental interest, Constitutional or otherwise, funding a trauma care network. If they did, they wouldn’t have to amend the Georgia Constitution in order to do it.
RESOLUTION: You can see how your state representative (169-2) voted on this issue here and how your state senator (52-2) voted here.
ENABLING LEGISLATION: You can see how your state representative voted (165-5) on this issue here and how your state senator voted (47-0) here.