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55% said no sales tax for transportation needs in Newton
County voters overwhelmingly approved state constitutional amendments, referendum
Covington traffic
Traffic flows through the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 278 and Emory Street in Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — About 55% of Newton County voters voted against imposing a new sales tax for transportation in a Nov. 3 Special Election.

Official totals showed 55% against the proposed new 1% sales tax and 45% for it.

However, two state constitutional amendments and a statewide referendum won "yes" votes in Newton County and statewide.

TSPLOST Special Election

Newton County voters were asked if they wanted to approve a 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for transportation, and a bond issue of $18.9 million, all for transportation projects in Newton County’s unincorporated area and six cities.

The sales tax could have only been imposed for five years and produce a maximum of $56.1 million for transportation projects in the cities and unincorporated area. It would have increased the total sales tax in Newton County to 8%

The bond issue was to be used to more quickly begin work on projects in the county and Covington as they await the collection of tax revenues, officials have said.

However, only six precincts — City Pond, Town, Beaverdam, Stansells, Fairview and Crowell — voted “yes” and the remaining 16 precincts voted "no."

Transportation SPLOST for Newton County:

Yes – 23,243 votes, or 45%

No – 27,920 votes, or 55%

Constitutional Amendment 1

This proposal asked voters if they want to include in the state Constitution a requirement that the state government only use fees it collects for such purposes as cleanup of illegal tire dumps or hazardous waste to be used for those purposes and not placed into the state budget for other uses.

However, it also allows the state to use the money in the event of an economic 

downturn and prohibits the General Assembly from dedicating money for a specific purpose if it exceeds 1% of total state revenues from the previous year.

It requires establishment of a special fund to include identification of its specific purpose, naming the state agency to administer the funds, providing annual reports of revenues and expenses, and ending the fee or tax within 10 years. 

Constitutional Amendment No. 1:

Yes – 77% (won with 82% statewide)

No – 23%

Constitutional Amendment 2

This will remove sovereign immunity protections from state and local governments, and allow lawsuits against them for alleged violations of state laws and state and U.S. constitutions.

Sovereign immunity is a concept Georgia carried over from British common law that states the government legally can do no wrong. 

District 110 State Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough, whose district included part of Newton County, sponsored the resolution for the constitutional amendment in reaction to previous vetoes of similar legislation by two governors.

It will allow lawsuits against governments in superior courts and authorizes superior courts to order state and local officers and employees to cease violations beginning Jan. 1, 2021. 

It also requires that such legal actions be against the state or local government entity and not an elected official or individual working in the government. 

The amendment also prohibits any type of monetary award unless the Georgia General Assembly approves it. 

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that sovereign immunity protected public officials from being sued.

Constitutional Amendment No. 2:

Yes — 71% (won with 74% statewide)

No — 29%

Statewide Referendum

This law will apply to nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity. It will exempt from property taxes land owned by a nonprofit if the property is only used for construction or repair of single-family homes financed by the nonprofit with zero interest loans for individuals.

Statewide Referendum A:

Yes – 70% (won with 73% statewide)

No – 30%