Citizen initiative is a provision in a state constitution of many other progressive states that provides local citizens the right to gather the appropriate number of signatures regarding an issue and place it on the local ballot of the next election, so as to let all registered voters of the area concerned, decide if the proposal will become local law.
Georgia had this very basic right removed several years ago, when the state constitution was rewritten.
With our local and state officials nowadays unable to agree on anything except maybe a pay raise for themselves, citizen initiative is a much-needed right that needs to be restored to our state constitution.
Right now in Columbia County, rapid growth and unreasonable land sale prices has created a very unfair tax burden to many, especially those citizens with small plots of land. Large landowners, those with 10 or more acres, pay virtually no tax on their land because they are permitted by state law to put their land in conservation use; no questions asked. This has shifted their tax burden to the small landowners, and others, who could be taxed out of their family homesteads because of exorbitant tax bills.
Our two main state representatives who could solve the problem, simply with a House bill in the General Assembly by freezing local property taxes for a set period of time, both appear to be compromised.
One seems to be devoting full time doing damage control for a DUI and other charges. And the other, for some reason, is noncommittal to this simple remedy for this urgent problem of the citizens of Columbia County.
If the citizens initiative was now available, the issue could be placed on the local ballot for all citizens to decide our future. Isn't that how a democracy is supposed to work? As it now stands we are held captive by our state representatives who are failing to do their duty and everyone is suffering.
That is why we need the citizens initiative restored to our constitution; and possibly some other changes need also to happen.
James P. Hill
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