Bill places amendment on November ballot to protect special purpose funds

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Of $500 million in environmental funds collected, $200 million has been diverted to pay for other portions of the state budget

 

HR158 will allow Georgia citizens to vote on an amendment in November to require fees and taxes collected for a specific purpose to be spent on that purpose. The bill has broad applications and support across the state, especially from local city and county governments that depend on the funding for local projects. The proposed amendment on the November ballot will read: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were imposed?"

According to the Coosa River Basin Initiative, more than 24 local city and county governing bodies have adopted resolutions supporting HR 158, including Columbus, Atlanta, Cartersville and Valdosta. The loss of funds is real and significant. Since being adopted in the 1990s, the two environmental funds have collected about $500 million from citizens, but about $200 million has been diverted to pay for other portions of the state budget, leaving dozens of sites across the state awaiting expensive cleanups.

The Stop Trashing Forsyth and the Etowah, LLC organization based in Forsyth County recently requested citizens to write their senators to support the passage of the bill that has passed the House and moved to the Senate. The letter specifically cites “The money collected by the state of Georgia, which is intended for the state's hazardous waste trust fund, needs to stay in that fund so sites like Hightower and Eagle Point can be remediated in a timely manner, and any threat to the health and safety of Forsyth residents and the Etowah River, can be eliminated.”

The official summary of the bill reads: “A RESOLUTION proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by general law for the dedication of revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were imposed; to provide for procedures, conditions, and limitations; to provide for the re-designation of a current subparagraph of the Constitution; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.”

The bill provides for redirection of the funds during narrowly defined financial emergencies with a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate of the Georgia General Assembly. Read the full bill at https://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/HR/158. The bill has passed the House and is in the Senate. Log on at https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do for contact information for senators and representatives.

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