The Transportation Leadership Coalition took the first formal step towards litigation challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp for adding promotional language to the official state ballot in order to promote passage of Referendum 1.
Referendum 1, commonly called TSPLOST, is an $18 billion transportation program funded by a sales and use increase that is subject to voter approval in the July 31, 2012 primary election.
If TSPLOST passes Sandy Springs would receive an estimated $1,841,969 annually for transportation projects.
On behalf of TLC, Atlanta attorney Pitts Carr has taken the initial action of 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 Referendum 1, the TSPLOST sales tax increase for road and transit projects.
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 release press release by the group.
Monday's formal inquiry from attorney Carr directs Kemp to cite the legal authority for adding the 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.”
“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 Freedom of Information Act to request 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 Governor Nathan Deal to intervene and protect the integrity of the ballot. Governor Deal, one of the biggest supporters of the Referendum 1 tax increase, has not responded to these requests.