Allowing casinos, with some of the revenue earmarked for education, was one of nine straw poll questions on the primary election ballots. The non-binding referenda — five for Republicans and four for Democrats — were an attempt to gauge interest for the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session.
Statewide, 50.22 percent of the voters said they would support casino gambling. In Floyd County, 53.84 percent were opposed.
So is Republican Chuck Hufstetler, the sole candidate for the state Senate District 52 seat in the Nov. 6 general election.
“I don’t think the expansion of gambling is the way to solve our budget problems,” he said.
State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, said it’s a sneaky and regressive tax. “Adding glitz to the scheme makes it more alluring, but it’s still just a dirty trick to take more from the poorest among us,” he said.
Look for legislation allowing active duty military younger than age 21 to get gun permits in Georgia. The proposal netted support from 68.73 percent of Republican voters statewide, and from 70.39 percent of those in Floyd County.
“They’re serving our country and they’ve been issued guns. I don’t have a problem with that,” said Eddie Lumsden, the Republican challenging state Rep. Barbara Massey Reece, D‑Menlo, for the state House District 12 seat.
Reece also came down in favor of the plan, adding that people serving in the military are trained in the safe handling of firearms.
Coomer said he sponsored a bill last session to allow the permits, but time ran out before it could get a vote on the floor.
The idea of voters registering by political party didn’t appear to generate a lot of enthusiasm from the public, with “no” votes coming from 53.36 percent of Republicans statewide and 56.81 percent in Floyd County.
In the county’s legislative delegation, however, only Reece said she was definitely opposed. She pointed out that Floyd County residents typically must pull a Republican ballot if they want a say in County Commission races, and Chattooga County voters often have only Democrats to choose from for commissioner and sheriff.
“There also are a growing number of independent voters,” Reece said. “I would not want to put restraints on people voting in the manner they want to.”
Right to life
A constitutional amendment recognizing a “paramount right to life” from conception to death was favored by 65.67 percent of Republican voters statewide, and 68.32 percent of those who voted in Floyd County.
Lumsden was unequivocal in his support.
“I believe life begins at the moment of conception, and that life needs to be protected,” he said.
Hufstetler agreed, adding that he also supports the Pregnancy Center of Rome, a local ministry that provides “alternatives to abortion for women with unplanned pregnancies.”
Reece said she is anti-abortion but wants to be sure the bill is written to avoid the legal pitfalls such legislation has encountered elsewhere.
The issue of state-sanctioned charter schools, without the oversight of local boards of education, will be on the ballot statewide in November.
In last week’s straw poll, it was rejected by 56.33 percent of Georgia Democrats and 65.52 percent of those who voted in Floyd County.
Coomer, who backs the measure, said he’s encouraged by the number of Democrats who did support the proposal.
Hufstetler called it “a mixed bag.” He said some local boards elsewhere are unfairly blocking positive options for their students. Charter schools, however, would get a share of the tax dollars that now go to the local systems.
“We need to make sure at the state level that we don’t have charter schools that are simply in it to make a profit,” he said.
Democrats were asked about support for an income tax credit for home energy costs, and there were “yes” votes from 79.58 percent of their voters statewide. Floyd County Democrats backed it with 77.48 percent of the vote.
“We just approved one for industries,” Reece said. “It’s a minor amount of money, and with the rising costs of heating fuel and electricity, certainly people would like to have a break.
Lumsden said the break for industries was aimed at creating jobs. He and Hufstetler said they’d need time to research the new proposal before commenting.
Coomer said he wants to see state and U.S. income taxes eliminated for everyone.
Made in Georgia
A sales tax reduction for Made in Georgia products won support from 87.03 percent of Georgia Democrats and 84.22 percent in Floyd County.
Reece said she also wants to see policies encouraging the state to buy more local products and for the federal government to “Buy American.”
Lumsden and Hufstetler said they agree with the concept of helping Georgia businesses, but the details would matter.
Coomer, an attorney who will start his second legislative term in January, had already looked into the issue.
“That is actually illegal,” Coomer said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has stated clearly and repeatedly that states cannot create that kind of reverse tariff on out-of-state manufacturers.”
Limits to lobbyist spending were on both parties’ ballots and, statewide, were favored by 87.22 percent of Republicans and 72.54 percent of Democrats who voted.
In Floyd County the proposal won support from 87.59 percent of Republicans and 75.97 percent of Democrats.
All local candidates signed a pre-election pledge to support a $100-per-day cap on the amount a lobbyist can spend on each legislator. They repeated their support on Friday.