Georgians to vote in November on waiving state’s sovereign immunity

The Georgia State Legislature on Tuesday gave final approval to House Resolution 1023, sending it to the November 2020 ballot. The measure would allow residents to seek declaratory relief from state or local laws that are found to violate the U.S. Constitution, state Constitution, or state law. Under the amendment, a court could not award damages, attorney’s fees, or other costs of litigation unless authorized by the state legislature. After granting declaratory judgment, a court would be able to block the law or act in question. If approved, the amendment would waive the state’s sovereign immunity for any acts occurring on or after January 1, 2021.

This amendment was sponsored by Republican Representative Andrew Welch. On February 20, 2020, the state House passed HR 1023 unanimously. On June 15, 2020, the state Senate unanimously approved an amended version of the measure, which was then approved unanimously in the House on June 16, 2020.

One other constitutional amendment is also set to appear on the statewide ballot in Georgia this November. The amendment would authorize the Georgia State Legislature to pass legislation establishing special funds with dedicated revenue sources to fund statute specific projects. Statutes that impose such taxes and fees would need to reference the amendment and identify the government agency responsible for administering the revenue in its text.

The state legislature reconvened its session on June 15 after it had been suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislative session is limited to 40 legislative days and, as of Wednesday, there were eight days left of the legislative session.

From 1996 to 2018, 81 measures were on the ballot in Georgia. Of the total, 84% (68 of 81) were approved and 16% (13 of 81) were defeated.

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