• 2016 Georgia Election Update
  • November 24, 2016
  • Law Firm: Greenberg Traurig LLP - New York Office
  • U.S. Senate

    Incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson (R) defeated his two challengers Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley and avoided a run off Senator Isakson secured 54.9 percent of the vote. Republicans will maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate and won an open seat in Indiana as well as securing incumbent victories in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

    U.S. House

    All of Georgia’s incumbent Congressional members were re-elected. Republicans will maintain a majority in the next Congress, and six seats were won by Democrats. These include seats in Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey.

    Congressional Balance of Power

    114th Congress: Jan. 3, 2015 - Jan. 3, 2017

    Senate: 54 Republicans, 46 Democrats

    House: 244 Republicans, 187 Democrats

    115th Congress: Jan. 3, 2017 - Jan. 3, 2019

    Senate: 52 Republicans, 48 Democrats

    House: 238 Republicans, 193 Democrats

    Governor Races

    Republicans picked up three seats in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Missouri. Current Governors: 33 Republicans, 15 Democrats, and 1 Independent.

    Georgia Senate

    Georgia Republicans will convene in January 2017 with a near-super majority after Democrats regained control of SD-43 in parts of DeKalb, Newton, and Rockdale counties. Tonya Anderson defeated Republican Incumbent JaNice Van Ness 70-30 percent.

    Georgia House

    Georgia Republicans will continue to have a majority with narrow victories in Brookhaven and Grayson. Only three incumbents were defeated: two Republicans and one Democrat.

    The Honorable Taylor Bennett (D-HD-80) - defeated by Meagan Hanson (R)

    The Honorable Valerie Clark (R-HD-101) - defeated by Sam Park (D)

    The Honorable Joyce Chandler (R-HD-105) - retained seat by defeating Donna McLeod (D)

    The Honorable Mike Cheokas (R-HD138) - defeated by Bill McGowan (D)

    The Honorable Rusty Kidd (I-HD-145) - open seat won by Ricky Williams (R) over Floyd Griffin (D)

    The Honorable Gerald Greene (R-HD-151) - retained seat by defeating Kenneth Zachary Jr. (I)

    State Assembly Balance of Power

    153rd General Assembly: January 2015 - January 2017

    Senate: 39 Republicans, 17 Democrats

    House: 119 Republicans, 60 Democrats, 1 Independent

    154th General Assembly: January 2017 - January 2019

    Senate: 38 Republicans, 18 Democrats

    House: 118 Republicans, 62 Democrats*

    *Final votes have not been confirmed in two districts, but are expected to be won by Republicans.

    Georgia Constitutional Amendments

    Opportunity School District
    - Failed 60-40 percent

    Amendment 1: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools to improve student performance?”

    The Opportunity School District (OSD) amendment would have allowed Georgia to create a mechanism to remove failing schools from their geographic school districts and put them under the leadership of the state. This new district would then oversee schools that failed to meet specific, measurable goals for at least three consecutive years, no matter where in the state they are located.

    Once a school was deemed to be failing, decision-making, governance, and oversight would have been given to the state’s OSD with the goal of improving student education and performance. The newly formed OSD would have been run by a superintendent who reports directly to the Governor.

    Safe Harbor Amendment - Approved 83-17 percent

    Amendment 2: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited?”

    Amendment 2 asked voters to approve the creation of the Safe Harbor for the Sexually Exploited Children Fund. It will allow for a dedicated revenue source to provide restorative services to child victims of sex trafficking, including safe housing, trauma counseling, and medical treatment to victims. Dedicated resources to support the Fund will be derived from additional fines and penalties imposed upon individuals found guilty of various sex crimes. These crimes range from prostitution and pimping to sexual exploitation of children. The amendment further allows for assessments on adult entertainment establishments that serve alcohol and provide entertainment involving nudity.

    Once collected, the monies in the Safe Harbor Fund will be distributed by an appointed commission. Members selected by the General Assembly and the Governor will be responsible for designating resources to state agencies, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits providing services and rehabilitation throughout the state. The commission also will be responsible for developing guidelines for fund allocation, as well as general oversight of how the funds are spent.

    Judicial Qualifications Commission - Approved 62-38 percent

    Amendment 3: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?

    Amendment 3 calls for the reform and re-establishment of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). The current commission was created 40 years ago and its members are appointed by the Governor, the Georgia Supreme Court, and the Georgia Bar Association.

    The new 7-member JQC will now be reconstituted. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President will each appoint one citizen representative. Additionally, they will each appoint one member of the State Bar of Georgia, selected from a list provided by the Bar’s Board of Governors. Two judges will be appointed by the Georgia Supreme Court and the Governor will appoint one member of the Bar to serve as the JQC chairman. All appointees would require confirmation by the State Senate.

    The newly formed commission will have the power to discipline, remove, and force judges to retire based upon investigations into alleged misconduct.

    Fireworks Proceeds for Trauma Care Funding - Approved 81-19 percent

    Amendment 4: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?”

    Amendment 4 asked voters to approve a measure that would direct revenue generated from fireworks sales to trauma care and fire safety. Currently, the state levies a 5 percent sales tax on fireworks sold in Georgia.

    The accompanying legislation, Senate Bill 350, provides specific direction for how the revenue from the excise tax would be distributed among three specific programs. The new law would require that 55 percent of the funds be dedicated to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission, 40 percent to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council, and 5 percent to local governments for the operation of 9-1-1 systems.

    Fulton County TSPLOST Referendum - Approved 53-47 percent

    Residents of the City of the Atlanta and Fulton County (outside of Atlanta) were presented with separate ballot measures authorizing the collection of sales tax to fund transportation projects.

    City of Atlanta: TSPLOST - Approved 68-32 percent MARTA - Approved 71-29 percent

    Residents living within the City of Atlanta were asked to approve two ballot referenda allowing for additional investment in transit and transportation infrastructure.

    The City of Atlanta put forward a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or TSPLOST, to generate funding for transportation improvements and congestion relief. The TSPLOST calls for an additional .40 percent sales tax, which is expected to raise $250-$300 million over the next five years.

    Much of the funding will be dedicated to the following:
    • $66 million for the Atlanta BeltLine, which will allow the BeltLine to purchase the remaining right of way to close the 22-mile loop;
    • $75 million for 15 complete streets projects;
    • $3 million for Phase 2 of the Atlanta Bike Share program;
    • $69 million for pedestrian improvements in sidewalks; and
    • $40 million for traffic signal optimization.
    MARTA asked voters to approve an additional .50 percent sales tax that is expected to generate approximately $2.5 billion over a 40-year period. Funds raised by this levy would be spent on major investments in transit infrastructure, building new infill rail stations, purchasing new buses, and introducing new bus routes.

    Fulton County (outside of Atlanta)

    In July, the Board of Commissioners approved an Intergovernmental Agreement between Fulton County and the 13 cities outside the City of Atlanta. This allowed Fulton County to place its own TSPLOST on the ballot in November. Voters were asked to approve an additional .75 percent sales tax that is expected to raise $596 million over five years. The funds would be distributed based on population.