AJC Voter's Guide 2006
 

 
Voters Guide

Voters Guide 2006

This guide includes information about candidates in contested races and ballot measures in the Nov. 7 general election. Candidates in each race are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot, as determined by the state of Georgia. We asked the candidates a variety of questions, some serious and some lighthearted, that we hope will help you make a decision. We've also included links to the candidates' Web sites and related news stories, when available, if you'd like more information.

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Constitutional Amendment — To dedicate revenue from special license plates

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide for special motor vehicle license plates and dedicate the revenue from such plates for stated purposes, including dedications for the ultimate use of agencies, funds, or nonprofit corporations where it is found that there will be a benefit to the state?

What it means to you: This amendment allows lawmakers to dedicate money raised from certain special license plates to be used for a specific cause, including nonprofit agencies. Currently, the constitution generally forbids the earmarking of state funds for particular purposes and giving state funds to private groups. A “yes” vote would allow portions of tag fees to be dedicated to certain causes through specialty license plates. A “no” vote would mean any groups seeking to raise money through that avenue would be prohibited from doing so, unless they pursued a constitutional amendment.

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Constitutional Amendment — To protect the traditions of fishing and hunting

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the tradition of fishing and hunting and the taking of fish and wildlife shall be preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good?

What it means to you: Amendment supporters say protection is needed to prevent future legislatures from outlawing the state's rural traditions as Georgia continues to urbanize. The amendment resulted, in part, when the state restricted the use of dogs when hunting deer. The amendment would not alter the state's ability to regulate hunting and fishing, which are legal in Georgia. A “yes” vote would mean any future attempts to do away with hunting and fishing might be more difficult. A “no” vote would leave current laws, rules and regulations in place.

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Constitutional Amendment — To restrict the use of eminent domain

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to prohibit the use of eminent domain by certain nonelected authorities and to prohibit the contested use of eminent domain except for public use as defined by general law?

What it means to you: Eminent domain is a power used by government agencies to seize private property for public use. If your property is in the way of a road-widening, for example, the local or state transportation department may compensate you for taking the land as part of the project. The amendment is the result of high-profile cases in Georgia and throughout the country in which land was taken for commercial redevelopment. The law allows such takings if the government or an appointed development agency decides the property is blighted, and the definitions of blight are loose. Lawmakers, spurred by angry landowners, saw this as an abuse of eminent domain powers. A "yes" vote would require government agencies to meet certain criteria for defining blighted areas, give property owners more ways to appeal condemnations and make city and county elected officials vote on any such seizures. A "no" vote would keep current law in place, which allows non-elected authorities to use eminent domain.

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Statewide Referendum A — Tax exemption for farm equipment

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Act be approved which expands the ad valorem tax exemption for agricultural products and equipment to include certain additional farm equipment held under a lease purchase agreement?

What it means to you: This proposal would allow farmers to avoid paying state ad valorem taxes — similar to the ones motor vehicle owners pay every year on their birthday — on tractors, combines and other equipment held under a lease-purchase agreement. Currently, the tax exemption applies only to equipment that is owned. A "yes" vote would mean farmers would get a tax break on equipment they obtained under a lease-purchase agreement. A "no" vote means they would have to keep paying property taxes on that equipment.

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Statewide Referendum B — Tax exemption for veterans groups

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Act be approved which expands the ad valorem tax exemption for veterans organizations to include certain additional nonprofit veterans organizations which refurbish and operate historic military aircraft for educational purposes?

What it means to you: Veterans groups recognized by the federal government do not pay state property taxes on their facilities. This proposal would expand that tax exemption to any nonprofit veterans organization that refurbishes and operates historic military aircraft acquired from the federal government and puts it on display to the public for educational purposes. A "yes" vote would mean these veterans groups would not have to pay these state property taxes. A "no" vote means they would continue paying the taxes.

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Statewide Referendum C — Tax exemption for charitable institutions

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Act be approved which grants an exemption from ad valorem taxation on property owned by a charitable institution which generates income when that income is used exclusively for the operation of such charitable institution?

What it means to you: Charitable institutions are currently exempted from property tax on the property used in their charitable work. They are not, however, exempt on property they use to generate revenue. If, for example, a charity used part of its property to operate the charity and rented out part of its property for office space, it would not be exempt on the rented-out part of that property. This bill would allow the exemption if the profit generated from the profit-making property is used solely to operate the charitable institution. A “yes” vote would mean charitable groups would get an extra property tax break. A “no” vote would mean they continue paying taxes on some of their property if it is used to generate revenue.

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Statewide Referendum D — Homestead exemption for senior citizens

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Act be approved which provides a homestead exemption for senior citizens in an amount equal to the actual levy for state ad valorem tax purposes on the homestead?

What it means to you: This proposal would mean Georgians 65 and older would not have to pay state property taxes on their homes. The exemption would apply only to their primary residence, up to 10 acres. The homeowner would be responsible for state taxes on the value of the rest of the property. The state ad valorem tax is a very small part of most taxpayers’ property taxes. A "yes" vote on this proposal would slightly ease the tax burden on Georgia homeowners 65 and older. A "no" vote would mean they would have to pay state property taxes like other homeowners.

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Statewide Referendum E — Homestead exemption for surviving spouse of peace officer or firefighter

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Act be approved which provides a homestead exemption for the full value of the homestead with respect to all ad valorem taxes for the unremarried surviving spouse of a peace officer or firefighter who was killed in the line of duty?

What it means to you: This proposal would mean the surviving spouse of a peace officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty would not have to pay any property taxes on his or her home. The exemption would apply only to a widow or widower who has not remarried. It applies to all property taxes. A "yes" vote on this proposal would ease the property tax burden for people whose spouse in law enforcement or firefighting was killed in the line of duty. A "no" vote would mean those people would continue to pay such property taxes.

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Statewide Referendum F — Homestead exemption for a surviving spouse

Text of ballot issue: Shall the Act be approved which provides that, with respect to base year assessed value homestead exemptions, the surviving spouse of a deceased spouse who has been granted such a homestead exemption shall receive that same exemption at the same base year valuation that applied to the deceased spouse so long as that surviving spouse continues to occupy the home as a residence and homestead?

What it means to you: This exemption applies only to counties and cities that have adopted a base year or "freeze" exemption on property taxes that works like this (in the case of a couple): If a married couple buys a home, they will pay taxes on it based on its assessed value at the time of its purchase. For example, if the couple's home is valued at $250,000, they will pay taxes on that value as long as they own the home, even if the home is revalued at a higher price. Usually, it is either the husband or the wife who applies for a homestead exemption, allowing them to take advantage of that so-called "freeze" on property taxes on the base value of the home. This proposal would allow a property value freeze to stay in effect for a home kept by the surviving spouse upon the death of the applicant for the exemption. The amendment would not have any impact on cities and counties where such freeze exemptions have not been passed. A "yes" vote would ensure that a surviving spouse continues getting a break on his or her property taxes. A "no" vote means the surviving spouse might have to reapply for the exemption and have to pay taxes based on a new, potentially higher value on the home.