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Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

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TSPLOST is Not A Constitutional Referendum

by PV

PRESS RELEASE

Transportation Leadership Coalition Initiates Legal Inquiry Against Secretary of State Brian Kemp

Kemp has no legal authority to add promotional language to Georgia ballot.

July 2, 2012, Roswell, GA – Today, the Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC) took the first formal step towards litigation challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp for adding promotional language to the official state ballot in order to promote passage of Referendum 1. Referendum 1, commonly called T-SPLOST, is an $18B transportation program funded by a sales and use increase that is subject to voter approval in the July 31, 2012 primary election.

On behalf of TLC, Atlanta Attorney Pitts Carr has taken the necessary initial action to protect the Georgia state ballot from political interference. Carr is a founding partner of the nationally recognized firm Carr & Palmer and served Georgia as a special assistant attorney general in the challenge to the constitutionality of individual mandate within the Patient Protection and Affordability Act.

TLC recently uncovered that promotional language, in addition to the ballot question provided by the legislature, was added to Georgia’s official ballot to encourage passage of Referendum 1, the T-SPLOST sales tax increase for road and transit projects. The Secretary of State took responsibility for the language and the unprecedented act of modifying the ballot with no apparent legal authority.

Today’s formal inquiry from attorney Carr directs Secretary of State Brian Kemp to cite the legal authority for adding the language “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Carr’s letter in part reads:

“Secretary of State Kemp concluded that the preamble ‘is referenced in the original legislation.’ Nowhere does that language appear in O.C.G.A. 48-8-240 et seq. To the contrary, the ballot language was specifically directed by the legislature as noted above.”

And further: “Mr. Russo [general counsel for Secretary of State Kemp] at least appeared to be of the opinion that this was a constitutional amendment which, of course, it is not. He concluded without citation “all other questions placed on the ballot include a preamble.”

Additionally, Carr has initiated an Open Records Request to request all documents relevant to this ballot issue.

“Whether you are for or against the proposed tax increase, we can all agree the ballot is sacred and neither the Secretary of State nor anyone else should be able to turn our ballot into political propaganda,” said Jack Staver, TLC chairman. “The chaotic and contradictory statements made by Kemp and his office are characteristic of someone getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or in this case in the taxpayers’ pocket.”

Staver continues, “I understand why Kemp is running around like a chicken with his head cut off. There is a real possibility that the secretary of state could be held personally liable for the cost of reprinting the ballot.”

Ten days ago TLC issued a public call for Governor Nathan Deal to intervene and protect the integrity of the ballot. Governor Deal, one of the biggest supporters of the Referendum 1 tax increase, has not responded to these requests.

“This week, we will be celebrating Independence Day. We celebrate the birth of our freedom, the Declaration of our Independence, release from tyrannical behavior, and our right to free and fair elections. Young men and women of our country have fought wars throughout our history in order to protect and defend these precious rights. As patriots and citizens we can do no less than whatever it takes to defend the integrity of our elections.”

PV Muses: SO…ummm…TSPLOST fans? Wanna know the difference between a statewide referendum and T-SPLOST? Besides the fact that it is not a “constitutional amendment” issue?

HINT: A “statewide referendum” is one in which you add-up all the “Yes” votes and compare them to the “No” votes….and whichever side has the most votes in TOTAL wins the ballot question.

But, T-SPLOST isn’t a “statewide referendum” for a very specific reason: This is being voted on in 12 mutually exclusive geographic “regions.” All “Yay” votes and all “Nay” votes are not aggregated into one up-or-down vote count.

So, if (as example) Region 1 were to pass their T-SPLOST by 25,005 votes, and Region 2 was losing by 25,000 votes, Region 2 could not go “borrow” the excess 25,005 votes from Region 1 to add to their total to allow theirs to pass.

Yeah…it’s both a math issue and a Georgia Constitution issue here….two things lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have demonstrated for a lonnnnng time they neither understand nor really give a damn about.

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