Constitutional amendments galore! Go ahead and cast your vote today

state-capitol

Georgia’s Constitution could get a significant makeover in 2017 if three measures passed or proposed Wednesday win the approval of voters.

First is Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District, which would allow the state to intervene in perennially failing schools. The plan won the requisite two-thirds majority in the House Wednesday, with 11 Democrats and the chamber’s lone independent voting for it and four Republicans opposing it. We’ve discussed that plan at length here, so for today I’ll move on to the two newer ideas.

On the House floor Wednesday, shortly before debate began on the OSD resolution, Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, R-Columbus, said he would not allow a bill mandating insurance coverage of autism treatments for some children out of his committee. The legislation is a major priority of the Senate — it was given the number Senate Bill 1 to reflect as much — and was the source of late-session discord between the two chambers last year. Instead, Smith said he will propose a constitutional amendment for the 2016 ballot that would establish a 0.2 percent sales tax statewide to cover treatments for all autistic children from birth to age 18. Smith said it was “time (for senators) to either put up or shut up” and address the issue comprehensively. Senators likely view his proposal as a poison pill to keep the issue from being solved at all; Smith’s proposal would ask Georgia voters to tax themselves, per his numbers, $200 million to $300 million per year.

Part of the given rationale for mandating autism coverage is that early treatment not only improves a child’s chances at a normal life. It also stands to save taxpayers a large amount of money in educational costs. Because of the latter, I originally thought the state should put up the money for the treatment, since it stood to reap much of the financial benefit. But one GOP legislator who supports the mandate — and is no one’s idea of a moderate squish — makes the argument that a mandate, while not ideal, is better because it at least preserves a degree of cost competition among insurers. If the state becomes a single payer for the treatment, he said, there will be an artificially high floor for the price of the treatment, and ultimately the collective cost would be higher than it has to be.

The third measure, revealed to the AJC late Wednesday, is a proposal to allow as many as six casinos to be built across the state. The sponsor, Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, says as much as $250 million per year could be raised to supplement lottery funding for the HOPE scholarship and the state’s pre-K program. From the AJC story:

“Should it pass, local governments would have the option of asking their voters to allow a casino to be built. The state would be divided into five zones and no more than six casino licenses would be allowed, each overseen by the Georgia Lottery Corp.

“To prove themselves committed and capable of pulling off the kinds of resorts envisioned, casino developers would be required to invest $1 billion in the Atlanta-area casino and $200 million for a license in other parts of the state.”

I am naturally skeptical of casino proposals, and not only because I don’t think government should be encouraging people to gamble away money their families may need. (And state-sanctioned casinos producing revenues for the state would almost certainly be promoted by the state.) But beyond that question of morality, I’m unconvinced that casinos actually spark development and economic activity outside their own walls. A lot of people, when they hear “casino,” think “Las Vegas.” But if you’ve ever been to Tunica, Miss., or Atlantic City, N.J., you’ve seen places that don’t match the glitz and glamour of Vegas. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but I doubt very many people who grow up in Tunica want to stay in Tunica.

That said, it could be different if the casinos are built in places with other significant tourist development, so that they are economic supplements rather than economic stimulants. Savannah, for example, or some of Georgia’s recreational lakes (e.g., Lanier or Oconee) might have enough other critical mass to pull that off.

What say you? It’s been a while since I’ve done a poll on the blog, so I’ve added one here. Cast your vote below, and let’s see what our little unscientific survey yields.

Reader Comments 0

56 comments
MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I just posted this statement on Maureen Downey's "Get Schooled" blog at the AJC.  I decided to post it here, also, for readers to consider:


"If public education ever becomes the focus of those who are mainly seeking profit or monetary gain through the education of children and the work of teachers, we will have prostituted the public educational system for America envisioned by our idealistic and brilliant Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson.  Moreover, in my opinion, that would lead to the prostitution of the highest ideals and ideas of America, itself."

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The autism tax would cause an explosion of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses.  Autism exists and it can be quite serious.  However, it is up to parents of all children to secure help for their children as needed.  


Expansion of ACA would help many.  And we are already paying for that.


No problem with casinos.


No way to  OSD (keeps reminding me of ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which many of our current "leaders" suffer from)!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Wascatlady "And we are already paying for that."

Until the federal budget is in surplus, this will not be true. A budget that runs a deficit would by definition have to borrow money for any additional spending.

MHSmith
MHSmith

The next time Nathan Deal or any other Legislator tells you "we can't afford to expand Medicaid" you'll know how badly they are lying. These figures are several years old so they should be revised upward. Even from these dated amounts, four states are in the billion dollar neighborhood, one of them is over one billion dollars a year. And, these are revenues only from casino gaming not including all other forms of gaming.


So, we can't afford to expand Medicaid? 

We can't provide financial assistance for those facing catastrophic diseases  and illnesses, like Autism?


Stop the lying nonsense and this continual more money for HOPE/PreK scheme to pass expanded gaming BS. 

If you don't have good health all the education in the world will do you no good. We can fund healthcare instead of fattening the HOPE scholarship cow.  

I have no problem expending gambling in any form in this state as long as the proceeds are dedicated to expanding healthcare in this state. It's time to put healthcare in the front seat and let HOPE ride in the backseat.  



2012 Commercial Casino Tax Revenue State Revenue

  • Colorado $104.26 million 
  • Delaware $217.44 million
  • Florida $161.76 million 
  • Illinois $574.34 million 
  • Indiana $806.56 million 
  • Iowa $334.43 million
  •  Kansas $92.17 million 
  • Louisiana $579.45 million 
  • Maine $43.11 million 
  • Maryland $218.20 million 
  • Michigan $319.75 million 
  • Mississippi $272.73 million 
  • Missouri $471.41 million 
  • Nevada $868.60 million 
  • New Jersey $254.84 million 
  • New Mexico $62.79 million 
  • New York $822.67 million 
  • Ohio $138.18 million 
  • Oklahoma $20.38 million 
  • Pennsylvania $1.487 billion 
  • Rhode Island $328.98 million (FY 2012) 
  • South Dakota $16.62 million 
  • West Virginia $402.50 million 
  • TOTAL $8.60 billion


http://www.americangaming.org/industry-resources/research/fact-sheets/tax-payments-commercial-casinos

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Yeah, about those Constitutional Amendments.  It's all fun and games until you get behind someone at the voting booth and they're mouthing the words and you realize "This person has no clue what they are voting for/against".

notagain
notagain

Don't need casinos,horse racing,or rooster fighting.Insurance for the autism,,,,,

Linda Styles
Linda Styles

SB1 ("Ava's Law") is a flawed and misleading bill. A Constitutional amendment for Insurance Committee chair Richard Smith's proposed .2 cent sales tax hike to fund autism coverage until age 18 would be a long-term disaster.


As a long-time member of the Georgia autism advocacy community who has carefully reviewed of the current draft of the bill, it is clear that it is impossible to accurately assess the true, long-term cost of this bill, never mind just to small business, but also to both taxpayers and the parents of children on the spectrum. There has been in past years and is now a strong, ongoing effort by several monied health-care providers in the local autism network to push this legislation through with ad campaigns and lobbyists, which will not only allow but invite a skyrocketing surge in autism diagnosis. We have already seen evidence of it: the numbers of children in Georgia on the spectrum has grown from 1 in 150 in 2000 to the newest CDC estimate of  1 in 68  in 2010. Many of us in the community believe this is a false inflation generated by the over-diagnosis of very young children and infants. The bill specifies only one covered treatment: ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy, provided by the same local health-care institutions.


The language of the bill needs to be amended to include covered choices for parents other than ABA therapy. ABA is not the proper course for many children, and we have seen the damaging results when untrained caregivers cannot recognize the inappropriateness of this course of treatment for some autistics. Also, the bill does not include specific language prohibiting insurance funds to be distributed to institutions that routinely use harmful and inhumane aversive therapies to control the behavior of any autistic person.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

From Galloway's blog (sorry if off-topic, didn't see this topic posted recently)

"adding a non-discrimination clause would gut his bill.

“That amendment would completely undercut the purpose of the bill,” McKoon said."


Now McKoon admits that his bill is to allow discrimination.  

Will the legislature now add an amendment (if it's still on the table) to force companies to publicly post who they will discriminate against? 


Plumb Krazy
Plumb Krazy

Republicans pushing for more casinos. It isnt just GA, look around.. What more proof does one need the Republican Party is a  tool of the mafia and organized crime? So much of their legislation and ideas come straight from the Godfather Trilogy.

Plumb Krazy
Plumb Krazy

I be voting no on any more kook crap filtering down from the asylum in Atlanta.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

I see two possible angles of support for casino gambling in Georgia: (1) the libertarian line, and (2) the "let's grab the tax revenue and as much as we can skim in the process"  angle. The second I dismiss offhand as outright misguided, corrupt, and evil. The first, a bit harder to argue. I wonder how many politicians would support casino gambling if there weren't tax revenues and graft and backroom deals and special favors that come along with the glitz and glamor? The list of social downside effects is lengthy, and it is almost inevitable the presence of casino gambling will corrupt people and process, and in the end doing it because some other State does or will is wholly the wrong justification and approach.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MHSmith The amendment push is still on, and it would still have to be approved by voters. So it's not moot yet.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

I'm reluctant to support the autism tax. Early intervention is key when it comes to kids with autism. From my experience, many kids with ADHD are diagnosed within the spectrum of Autism. For my money the two are not the same. ADHD is far more common than ASD.  

Juanx
Juanx

If Deal would accept ACA for all qualifying Georgians, children would be covered, no tax would be needed.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Juanx Medicaid expansion wouldn't change the fact that many individual-market plans don't cover autism treatment. The two issues are unrelated.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Juanx And the "no tax would be needed" part also ignores the fact that, even if Medicaid expansion did cover autism treatment, Georgia would have to pay a few hundred million dollars a year to expand Medicaid. So, yes, taxes would be needed.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@Kyle_Wingfield @Juanx  The feds give the money to get started... its a no brainer, the gov must have less than no brains, or just hate the president and make his servants suffer.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Mr_B "We arealready borrowing for residents of other states to enjoy the benefits of expanded Medicaid."

FIFY

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Kyle_Wingfield @Juanx 

Check the top five revenues received by the states that have casino gambling, Kyle.

Bear in mind these taxes are like all other "sin taxes" if you don't want to pay them, then don't gamble. Furthermore and once again Kyle, these taxes will never, I repeat NEVER show up on anyone's 1040. 


The top five amounts I've seen collected from "casino gambling alone" has been around $1 billion a year, in some case even more. Time to get honest Kyle, we could easily fund the Medicaid expansion and then some more by simply expanding gambling to include casinos and all other forms. . 

Forget dedicating the proceeds to HOPE or education.


If tomorrow - God forbid - you were diagnosed with cancer Kyle, and your insurance policy didn't have the coverage to keep you and yours out of bankruptcy and off of food stamps, tell me, which would serve you better, all the financial assistance you're going to need to pay for all your needed treatments for cancer that are necessary to keep you alive or money enough to add a PHD to your journalism degree?   ,



MHSmith
MHSmith

@Kyle_Wingfield @Juanx 

So choose one that does. Which of course is likely to cost more so I'd be hesitant to say the two are unrelated.  

Brosephus
Brosephus

I wouldn't vote for any of them.  I view proposing amendments as a way for legislators to squish out of doing their jobs.  They run the campaigns to go to the Gold Dome to write, debate, and vote on legislation.  If they can't do the job, then don't run for office.

Every decision that's made in Georgia should not be a constitutional amendment.  The state constitution should only be amended if it is something of the utmost significance.  None of these ideas, plans, or whatever you want to call them meet such a threshold in my view.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Brosephus I would point out that if the state wants to dedicate funding to autism treatment, it can't do that without a constitutional amendment. If it wants to be able to take control of a school and its funding away from a local district, it can't do that without a constitutional amendment. If it wants to legalize casinos and dedicate the money to HOPE/pre-K, it can't do that without a constitutional amendment.


Now, maybe you don't want the state to do those things. Maybe you want it to fund autism or HOPE/pre-K without dedicating funds, or to work on failing schools without taking them over. That's fine. But it cannot do those specific things with regular legislation.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Kyle_Wingfield 

Why does there have to be a constitutional amendment to take over a school?  Why does the state even have to take over a school in the first place?  I thought Republicans were all about small government, and last time I checked everyone wanted local control of schools.  If the schools are failing, then maybe it's because of the government failing the schools.  They can't do it on their own, and this whole thing reeks of nothing more than the injection of more bureaucracy and government into the affairs of local politics.

What I want is for the elected officials of the state to quit lying.  This is not small government that's being proposed.  This isn't getting the government out of the way either.  Those who ran on such stuff needs to be called on the carpet, but I don't expect you or any other Republican supporters to do such a thing.

If these things can't be done with regular legislation, then that says more about the dysfunction of the government as a whole more than it says anything else.  That, unfortunately, can't be blamed on anyone other than Republicans at this point.  You can't even blame Obama.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Brosephus "If these things can't be done with regular legislation, then that says more about the dysfunction of the government as a whole more than it says anything else."

No, it's a matter of what the state constitution says the state government can and can't do. If the state government wants to be able to do more than that, an amendment is needed.

As I said before, if you don't support the measure, don't support it. But the use of the amendment process says nothing about dysfunction.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Kyle_Wingfield 

As for what I want...

I want politicians to get out of the educational affairs of the systems and let the people who are trained in educational matters to solve the problems.  I don't want schools dismantled, I want them repaired.  I don't want the state micromanaging local schools because they can't effectively deal with state matters already, so why burden the state with even more.

I don't think the state should be funding autism treatment directly.  The state could, however, negotiate with insurers to get the coverage for people who need it, couldn't they?  If they dedicate funding for autism, how long before we have a constitutional amendment for cancer?  HIV?  Sickle Cell?  I don't want to sound harsh, but some things are not meant for the government to do in my opinion.  The government can create the environment for insurance companies to offer the coverage necessary for the families, but I don't think the government should be outright paying for it.

As for casinos, they're well enough where they are.  If Georgia needs revenue, then do it the old fashioned way.  Taxes.  You can't expect to live in Buckhead or Sandy Springs while paying project housing rental rates.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Kyle_Wingfield 

It still injects the state into the affairs of local government and usurps the idea or notion of local control.  The end result is still the state getting involved with issues on the local level.  The state of Georgia can't even handle its own issues that it's mandated to deal with.

That's why we are having these debates in the first place.  If the state government was some beacon of excellence in governance, then I might buy it.  As it currently stands, Georgia Republicans are just as inept as the Georgia Democrats they replaced.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Brosephus Well, if Obama was governor he could just dictate the new regulations the state would be following, but the GOP believes in the rule of law, so here we are.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Visual_Cortex @RafeHollister @Brosephus Not hard, it just jumps out at you, when you hear someone complain about how long and how complicated the legislative process is, to think of the "expediter" Obama, he just makes up the rules as he blunders along.  


Mr President you need to notify Congress before releasing Gitmo residents," oh, not me, just tell them he was in bad health and we didn't have time, haha".

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Kyle_Wingfield 

If we have to amend the constituion for every issue that comes up, then that does point to dysfunction in my view.  Why elect the assembly if things end up on the ballot for us to approve anyway.  We could save time and money by just drawing up a list and holding a referendum on each individual item.

That's the dysfunction that I see and am talking about.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Kyle_Wingfield 

From your own post...

“You give this new operator … some running room, but not a lot of running room,” he said, adding that the state has to make one thing clear: “If you don’t make progress, we’ll replace you. And we’ll replace and replace until we get it right.”

Not outright micromanagement, but it directs attention from the state to the local when Georgia is already attention deficit.

I understand what they want to do, but I just don't agree with the way it's being done.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@RafeHollister 

LOL!!!  If you actually knew the difference between statutes and regulations, you'd quit using that lame talking point.  It shows that you GOPers know absolutely nothing about the rule or function of law.

Claver
Claver

Undecided on the school reform.  I have no theoretical objection to state take overs, but the devil is in the details and I confess I've not kept up with the details.


Yes on autism.  The sales tax would not be my preferred method, but it would be better than doing nothing.


No on casinos.  The few casinos I have seen were places that dreams go to die.  I don't want that in Georgia. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Yes to the school reform, no to autism sales tax, yes to casino's.  


If it's a free country as they say, if you want to build a casino, build it, but you get no state funds for infrastructure improvements, and you should be taxed to fund programs for folks with gambling addictions.


If it really was a free country, you would be able as a young married person, to buy a policy covering maternity and potential newborns that covered all illnesses, including autism.   If you were past that stage of life, you should be able to drop that coverage.  If you can't afford the insurance, you should buy some birth control.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

The Autism situation  sounds like a solutions are too wide-ranging and need to be worked out.  The poison pill theory is likely correct.  We want the legislators to figure it out, not kick the can to voters like they do over and over again. 


If I saw the Autism on the ballot, I'd likely vote for it, but my thinking is that the legislators can't even make a decision, so kick the can over to voters. (Like they do with transit.)   They could figure it out, but they're just too scared. 


Medicaid should be expanded with the available federal dollars.  This could help some of the Autism needs.  It would also help untold hundreds of thousands of others who are crunched between Medicaid eligibility and affordable healthcare plans. Maybe, if Georgia (Deal, legislators) actually cared about the health of their people, then maybe they would get more people actual coverage than making life harder on so many. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

Expanding gambling for increase funding of HOPE? NO!


Expanding gambling to or for subsidizing HEALTHCARE in Georgia? YES!


As these questions have been framed and put forth, if they appear on the ballot as amendments I'll vote NO with prejudice!

straker
straker

Autism yes, casinos no.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

I’m unconvinced that casinos actually spark development and economic activity outside their own walls.

Agreed.

The first ballot with which I exercised my right to vote included a measure to bring legalized gambling to Atlantic City.

It seemed sensible at the time, and I voted yes. But now, I wish I had that vote back.

Elvez
Elvez

Turn Underground Atlanta into a Casino.