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Constitutional amendments on Nov. 2 ballots

POSTED: October 4, 2010 2:44 p.m.
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State Rep. Al Williams answers the phone in his Atlanta office

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Georgia House Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, provided the Courier a summary of several proposed amendments to the Georgia Constitution, which will appear as questions on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
“This summary comes in response to many questions and concerns raised by constituents,” Williams wrote.  
Summaries of each ballot question are based on the secretary of state’s description.
“Remember to vote this year — and to vote on the entire ballot,” Williams said.  
The first ballot question asks: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?”
According to the summary, “The Constitution (currently) prohibits the General Assembly from authorizing any contract or agreement that may or intends to have the effect of defeating or lessening competition. Non-compete clauses in contracts may limit where a former employee works, where he or she works and the type of work they can perform. Moreover, these restrictions can be for brief periods or for years.
“If passed, the amendment would give the General Assembly the power to grant to courts the ability to ‘blue-pencil’ contracts with non-compete language. This means a judge could limit the duration, geographic area and scope of prohibited activities provided in a contract or agreement with competition restrictions and thereby make such non-compete language reasonable.”  
Williams said he will vote in favor of this amendment.
“The legislation will offer both employers and employees certain protections,” he said. “Blue-penciling is permitted in other states, and the authorizing legislation sets reasonable presumptions for enforcement persuade me to continue my support.”
Question two asks whether the state should impose a $10 tag fee on motor vehicles to fund trauma care.
The summary specifies the fee can only be spent to fund trauma care and cannot be diverted to the general fund for other purposes. The tag would be levied on passenger vehicles that carry 10 or fewer passengers, including motorcycles, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans as well as cars.
 The third ballot question asks voters whether the Georgia Department of Transportation should be allowed 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.” The purpose of multiyear contracts is to allegedly help reduce long-term construction costs paid by the state.  
“Currently, a state agency cannot enter into contracts with private vendors if the contract requires payments beyond the funds available for that fiscal year,” according to the summary.  “This means that unless an agency has funds in hand for a five-year project, like a road project, it can only contract year-to-year.”
“I voted in favor of the amendment and will vote yes at the ballot,” Williams said. “Multi-year contracts are more efficient, increase competition and lower costs for the government and allow for better long-term planning.”
A fourth ballot question asks voters whether the state should be permitted to authorize multiyear “energy performance contracts.”
 “These contracts basically let a state agency use debt to finance energy efficiency and water improvement projects at state buildings, and the vendors who build the projects guarantee payments back to the agency based on realized savings (lower energy costs, less water used), which is achieved by the cost savings resulting from the improvements,” the summary reads.
 The fifth ballot question asks whether owners of property in industrial areas should be permitted to remove the property from the industrial area and receive services from a neighboring city. This amendment would only concern Chatham and Jeff Davis counties, as these two counties “face restrictions … to participate in the municipal services provided near their locations,” according to the summary.  
The last ballot question concerns a statewide referendum and asks voters whether a business’s inventory should be exempt from state property tax. If approved, the act would become effective Jan. 1, 2011, and would apply to all tax years beginning on or after that date.
“I voted in favor of the legislation and will vote yes at the ballot,” Williams said. “While the repeal of the inventory tax will have limited effects on encouraging new business, the tax is not widely imposed, its economic impact varies and, overall, an inventory tax is a piecemeal approach to a necessary larger overhaul of the state tax code.”
Monday, Oct. 4 is the last day residents can register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election.

 

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