Tuesday, November 01, 2016
NOTES FROM THE SENATE, NOVEMBER 1, 2016
PART TWO OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Amendment 2 places a fee on persons or establishments convicted of a number of offenses that involve sexual exploitation of children or moral turpitude and also allows the taxing of adult entertainment businesses. What Amendment 2 does is direct, by constitutional amendment, those fees not to the state treasury but to an entity created by SB 8 in 2015, which established a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and Commission. A constitutional amendment is needed to direct these funds to be used exclusively for the Fund to treat, rehabilitate and protect children who have been victims of sexual exploitation. The Commission consists of eight members including the State DFCS Director, Commissioner of Department of Human Services and other appointees by them and by the House and Senate leaders. This Commission can expend these funds for rehabilitation services, safe houses, residential housing and health and social services. Without this amendment, these fees and taxes would go into the state treasury and might or might not be used for the purposes intended.
This amendment by House Resolution 1113 is almost as controversial as Amendment One, the Opportunity School District amendment, but in an "inside baseball" kind of way. This amendment abolishes and re-creates the Judicial Qualifications Commission with a changed Commission make-up. This Commission investigates and possibly disciplines judges with punishment that may include removal or retirement of the judge. So, it is a powerful body about which little is known outside legal circles unless publicity surrounds a particular case. Presently, the Commission is made up of two judges of any court of record selected by the Supreme Court, three lawyers with at least ten years' experience appointed by the State Bar and two citizens, not State Bar members, appointed by the Governor.
So, presently, the Legislature has no appointive role in this commission's makeup. What Amendment Four does is to create a new board and gives the Legislature a role in its appointment. HB 808 set up the process, should the amendment pass. The membership of the commission would be as follows:
1. Two judges of any court of record, appointed by the Supreme Court
2. One member of the State Bar, with at least ten years' experience, appointed by the President of the Senate from a list of ten from the Bar
3. One member of the State Bar, with at least ten years' experience, appointed by the Speaker of the House from a list of ten from the Bar
4. Two citizen (non-lawyer) members, one each, appointed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.
5. One member of the State Bar, with at least ten years' experience, appointed by the Governor.
The legislation holds all papers and information of the investigations private and that all testimony in the investigation is privileged. Four members of the Commission must concur on any recommendation for a public reprimand or to censure or remove a judge. Action to remove, suspend, retire or censure any judge also requires a majority of a vote of the Supreme Court.
Senate Resolution 558, passed in 2016, put this question on the ballot which, similar to Amendment 2, dedicates certain excise taxes on the sale of fireworks to Trauma Care, Fire Service and Public Safety. SB 350 spelled out how these funds would be divided should the constitutional amendment pass. Fifty-five percent of the funds would be appropriated to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission. Forty percent of revenues would be dedicated to the Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training Council to improve equipping and training firefighters and improving the fire rating of local fire departments. Five percent of the revenues would be allocated to local governments for operation of 911 systems. The only way to insure these funds will be utilized according to the intent of the legislation is to dedicate these funds with a constitutional amendment.
Full transcript of all legislation may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/Search.aspx. Find the year that the legislation passed, and specify if it is from the House or the Senate, and if it is a Bill or Resolution. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.