Casinos and the Constitution

The Georgia legislature is considering a bill commonly referred to as the Destination Resort bill.  Senate Bill 79 and House Bill 158 are clones.  This allows introduction and consideration of the same bill on parallel tracks in both House and Senate.

The Act is 28 pages long. The title alone is 163 words (lines 1-12).  The title explains that the Act establishes a gaming commission, authorizes licensing for up to two destination resorts, licenses suppliers and certain employees, regulates certain gaming activities, provides for fees and taxes and their distribution, enforcement of certain credit instruments, and provides for a contingent effective date.

There is a key phrase in the title of the bill that is important. At the end of the title are these words: “to provide for a contingent effective date.” 

The word “contingent” indicates that some prerequisite action must take place. The law cannot become effective until the contingent event. If it does not happen, then the law never becomes effective. Understanding this will help you understand some of the answers you may hear from your legislators if you ask about the bill.

Section 2 of the bill on the final page describes the events necessary for the contingent effective date. The entire section is two sentences. Sentence 1 tells what must happen before the bill becomes law. Sentence 2 tells what happens to this bill if Sentence 1 does not happen.

This Act shall become effective on January 1, 2019, provided that a constitutional amendment is passed by the General Assembly and ratified by the voters at the 2018 November general election which authorizes casino gambling in this state. Otherwise, this Act shall be repealed by operation of law on January 1, 2019.

The act becomes effective on January 1, 2019 if the Georgia Constitution is amended. As an aside note, understand that the legislature is openly considering an unconstitutional bill to raise taxes. They are sure hungry for that tax money to feed the government monster.

There are two critical steps to amending the Georgia Constitution. The first is that a resolution to amend the Constitution must pass by 2/3 of both houses. If that high hurdle is successful, then the voters must ratify the constitution.

So, let me offer some guidance and understanding on what you will likely hear and how you can question your legislator.  The first is that the “Destination Resort” bill is 28 pages describing a gaming commission, games of chance, slot machines, game tables, gaming equipment, and so on.

First how about a short title?  “A Bill to Authorize and Regulate Casino Gambling in Georgia”

Second, why is the legislature considering bill that is unconstitutional and it raises taxes?They should first address amending the Constitution?

Third, where is the Constitutional Amendment referred to in Section 2?  I have yet to see it and I am interested to see the clever work of the political wordsmiths.

Expect something like this: “Shall the Constitution be amended to provide for Destination Resorts in Georgia?”  That way everyone will think they are moving Disney World to Georgia.

There is also one important thing for which to listen.  You will likely hear your representative say something like, “I am voting to let the people decide.”

This is a disingenuous statement if not a flat out lie.  The Constitution was deliberately made difficult to amend.  There are three high hurdles that must be met.  First is the hurdle of 2/3 of the House.  Second is the hurdle of 2/3 of the Senate.  If those first two hurdles are met, then the constitution requires that the people have the final check and balance on the legislature.

No member of the legislature is “letting” anyone decide.  They are voting to amend the Constitution. They are then asking the people to approve their action by ratifying it.

I am contacting my Representative, Buddy Harden 404.656.7855 and my State Senator Greg Kirk (404) 463-5258 asking them to vote NO on these bills and to vote NO on whatever resolution is prepared to amend the Constitution.

Our legislators understand the process of amending the Constitution. They understand and know their role in that process.

If they are for casinos in Georgia, then be honest, take a stand for casinos, and vote that way. If they do not think that casinos are in Georgia’s best interest, then be honest and don’t buy the line of the professional politicians and lobbyists under the dome that they are “letting” me decide.

They are not “letting” me decide.  The Constitution limits their power to decide without the people giving approval to what they decided.

Be honest. Do your job. Do not abdicate your responsibility. Take a clear, unmistakable position on casino gambling in Georgia. Vote that way. Then, if the amendment gets on the ballot, come back your constituents and ask them to follow your lead.

Signature-Donald E. Cole

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