On Nov. 2, voters will be asked to accept or reject several amendments to the Georgia Constitution covering everything from funding trauma care centers to allowing the state Department of Transportation to enter into multi-year contracts (!).
Typically, no one pays much attention to these items, because they're in the form of vague and misleading questions that more often than not have been tweaked to better their chances of passage.
But Amendment 1 is coming under scrutiny. The measure, if passed, would strengthen the law that deals with contracts between employers and workers often called "non-competes." (They're the agreements that restrict an employee from, among other things, working in the same industry for a certain period of time if they get fired or laid off.)
Voters will be asked the following to determine whether Amendment 1 should be approved or rejected:
"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?”
That's not misleading at all! There are a lot of good words in there. "Competitive" is mentioned twice. And we all know that more competition helps create strong free-markets, which are filled with
charter schools, lake houses, and gated communities happiness.
But critics say the Big Business-backed amendment, if approved by voters, could actually reduce competition, curtail innovation and weaken workers' rights.
Veteran political columnist Tom Crawford probably summed it up best in a recent column:
What Amendment 1 really does is give corporate executives and business owners the power to drastically restrict the freedom of their employees to ever go out on their own and start their own businesses.
Business owners can currently require their employees to sign non-compete contracts, so that if employees leave to start a business they can’t use trade secrets or sensitive information they may have learned during their former job.
These contracts have to be reasonably written, however, so that a person’s right to earn a living isn’t permanently restricted. If a non-compete contract is challenged in court and one of the provisions is found to be illegally restrictive, then the entire agreement is voided and the worker is free to operate his own business.
Amendment 1 would allow non-compete contracts to remain in effect even if a judge determines that part of the agreement violates state law. A corporation could load up a non-compete contract with dozens of severe restrictions, require its employees to sign these agreements, and be assured that enough of the restrictions would survive a court challenge to prevent the employees from ever being able to start a competing business.
The Libertarians oppose the amendment, as do many labor lawyers. These fine barristers have started an entire website filled with legalese about the measure. (While Georgia's non-compete law should be "modernized," the lawyers say, what the amendment sets into law "seems to go well beyond what is necessary to accomplish this goal.")
But the amendment's supporters — the most visible of which is Jobs for Tomorrow, an advocacy group backed in part by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce — say the new law would help make Georgia more attractive to high-paying, high-tech industries and protect entrepreneurs, among other noble aims. You can read their arguments for passing the amendment at JFT's website.
Now, we know you came here looking for homework on what's supposed to be a beautiful weekend, so here you go. The AJC devoted some op-ed space to a pro-con rundown on the amendment. Jay Bookman penned a solid piece knocking the proposal. Also worth viewing: this news report by 11 Alive's Jeff Hullinger; this Peach Pundit post; a Marietta Daily Journal article; and a Georgia Public Broadcasting spot.
It's a complicated ballot item (and one you'll hear more about from us prior to Election Day). But it's worth educating yourself about the measure's pros and cons before you cast an early ballot or head to the polls on Nov. 2.
Interesting article. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/09/13/sea-level-acceleration-not-so-fast-recently/
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