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Anti-TSPLOST Group Starts Legal Inquiry

Secretary of State Kemp has no legal authority to add promotional language to Georgia ballot, says the Transportation Leadership Coalition.

More people are challenging language of the TSPLOST ballot question preamble, and this time the challenge may come as a lawsuit.

The Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC) took the first formal step towards challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp for adding promotional language to the official state ballot to promote passage of Referendum 1 or the Transportation Investment Act.

Referendum 1, commonly called TSPLOST, is an $18 billion transportation program funded by a 1 percent sales and use tax that is subject to voter approval in the July 31, 2012 primary election.

“We are disappointed that our elected officials would act in such a corrupt manner,” said TLC Chairman Jack Staver in a release. “Our leaders know this proposed tax can’t stand on its own merits.  So they have resorted to back room trickery, deceit, and misleading the people of Atlanta and Georgia.”

On behalf of TLC, Atlanta attorney Pitts Carr is questioning "political interference" on the upcoming ballot. Carr is a founding partner of the nationally recognized firm Pitts & Carr 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 questions the legality of promotional language on the upcoming July 31 ballot. The anti-TSPLOST group believes it was added to encourage the passage of TSPLOST.

See the attached PDF for the formal letter of inquiry.

"The Secretary of State took responsibility for the language and the unprecedented act of modifying the ballot with no apparent legal authority," states a press release by the group.

Carr's formal inquiry directs Kemp to cite the legal authority for adding the preamble 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 a public records request of 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. 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 Gov. Nathan Deal to intervene and protect the integrity of the ballot. Deal, one of the biggest supporters of the Referendum 1 tax increase, has not responded to these requests.

The Secretary of State's office has been contacted by Patch. Check back for updates to this issue.

Should the preamble language be removed before the July 31 election? What do you think about the language? Speak out in the comments below.

your own luck July 05, 2012 at 12:28 PM
The preamble language should be removed before July 31. The language on the ballot should just state to vote yes or no to raise taxes 1% for TSPLOST transportation projects. There should be no promise of jobs and ease of traffic congestion because this is all conjecture. I am so glad this lawsuit is being filed. I think I speak for many in saying I am so tired of government ramming whatever they want into our lives for their own personal or political gain. I think we, as individuals citizens, have had enough.
Jack S July 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
excellent commentary. Thanks for speaking up for all the apathetic or non voters out there. This fiasco will likely pass because of the low voter turn out and non caring.
TIC July 05, 2012 at 03:54 PM
SG68 The preamble is obviously biased in favor of the TSPLOST. However, it should not be unexpected or surprising. it just follows suit with the propaganda campaign waged by the pro TSPLOST groups that have flooded the media with misinformation, half truths, unsubstantiated claims and outright lies.
frank O'Brien July 05, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Too bad we can't focus on.issues. we need better travel.systems and this is only option. Anti groups muat like the status quo. We can't wait another decade for peogress.

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