|I • II • III • IV • V • VI • VII • VIII • IX • X • XI|
The Georgia Select Committee on Constitutional Revision, charged with creating the most recent, 1983 version, sought to create a brief, clear and flexible constitution. They achieved this goal: the final product was about half as long as the 1976 Constitution, it was better organized and wherever possible used simple modern English. Additionally, it gave the Georgia General Assembly greater flexibility to deal by statute with many matters that had been covered in the constitution itself. By far the most significant change between the Constitutions of 1976 and 1983 was that the latter document prohibited the inclusion of any further constitutional amendments relating to only a particular city, county or other local political subdivision.
Furthermore, Georgia law requires that all persons receiving a degree from an institution within the Georgia University System show a proficiency in the constitutions of the United States and Georgia. This requirement is satisfied by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.
- See also: Preambles to state constitutions
The preamble to the Georgia Constitution states:
Article I is the Bill of Rights for the citizens of Georgia.
Article II concerns voting and elections.
Article III establishes and defines the legislative branch of government.
Article IV deals with constitutional boards as well as commissions.
Article V establishes the executive branch and details the responsibilities of the governor.
Article VI establishes the court system in the judicial branch of government.
Article VII concerns taxation and state finance.
Article VIII establishes the education system for Georgia.
Article IX is entitled "Counties and Municipal Corporations."
Article X frames the process for amending the Georgia Constitution.
Article XI deals with other miscellaneous provisions of the government.
Amending the constitution
- See also: Amending state constitutions
Article X of the Georgia Constitution establishes two ways in which the constitution can be altered, revised or amended over time, either via legislatively-referred constitutional amendments or constitutional conventions.
Some noteworthy features of Article X:
- It contains a prohibition found in very few state constitutions in that it explicitly restricts the type of amendment that can be offered by saying, "Only amendments which are of general and uniform applicability throughout the state shall be proposed, passed, or submitted to the people."
- The governor is also explicitly forbidden from vetoing acts of the legislature to propose amendments or call conventions.
- Newly approved amendments or revisions are effective on the first day of January following their approval.
- The state legislature can vote to put an entire new constitution on a statewide ballot, rather than just an amendment.
- Unlike in many other states that allow for constitutional conventions, the legislature can unilaterally call for a convention without submitting that proposal to a vote of the people.
Rules for proposed amendments offered by the Georgia General Assembly include:
- An amendment can be proposed starting in either chamber of the assembly, i.e., the House of Representatives or the Senate.
- A proposed amendment must be approved by 2/3rds of the membership of each chamber before going to the state's voters.
- Proposed amendments are to be voted on during general elections of even-numbered years.
- Article X establishes a "Georgia Constitutional Amendments Publication Board," which is charged with ensuring that the state's voters have adequate notification that an election is to occur on a proposed amendment(s).
- The General Assembly can put a measure on the ballot that is either an amendment to the existing constitution or an entirely new constitution.
- The General Assembly is allowed to repeal a previous vote to put a proposed amendment on the ballot if they do so with a 2/3rds vote of both chambers and at least two months before the election would have occurred.
Rules for a constitutional convention include:
- Unlike in many other states, the state legislature can unilaterally call for a convention as long as 2/3rds of the members of each chamber vote in favor of doing that; the people of the state do not have to be further consulted.
- Any proposed amendments or revisions arising out of a convention must be put to the state's voters.
Georgia has had 12 ruling documents, from the colonial charter issued in 1732, to the current state constitution, adopted in 1983. The Council of Safety, Georgia’s Patriot rulers during the American Revolution, adopted a set of Rules and Regulations in 1776. Then came Georgia’s first constitution in 1777, followed by updated versions in 1789 and 1798. A new constitution was adopted at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, and at the end of the war in 1865. Another new constitution was adopted soon after the beginning of Reconstruction in 1868 and at its end in 1877. There have been three constitutions in the modern era - in 1945, 1976 and the current constitution of 1983.
Over time, Georgia has used three different methods of constitutional revision: seven were revised by constitutional conventions, two by constitutional commissions and one by the office of legislative counsel of the Georgia General Assembly.
The list below notes significant changes from constitution to constitution:
- The Constitution of 1789 brought the Georgia Constitution in-line with the United States Constitution.
- The Constitution of 1798 brought popular election of the governor.
- The Constitution of 1861 added a Bill of Rights.
- The Constitution of 1865 brought the prohibition of slavery.
- The Constitution of 1868 established free public education.
- The Constitution of 1945 brought the addition of a lieutenant governor.
- The Constitution of 1983 brought the largest re-write since 1877. Amendments in 1992 and 2004 allowed for the creation of the lottery (Art I, Sec II, Par VIII) and banned recognition of same-sex marriage (Art I, Sec IV, Par I) respectively.
- State constitution
- Constitutional article
- Constitutional amendment
- Constitutional revision
- Constitutional convention
- Georgia Secretary of State, "Georgia Constitution"
- Georgia Encyclopedia, "Georgia Constitution"
- Quizlet, "Georgia Constitution & Government Study Questions"
- Ware, Ethel Kime (1947). A Constitutional History of Georgia, New York, New York: Columbia University Press.
- Hill Jr., Melvin B. (1994). The Georgia State Constitution: A Reference Guide, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
- State of Georgia (1877). Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the People of Georgia: Held in the City of Atlanta in the months of July and August 1877, Atlanta, Georgia: Jas. P. Harrison & Co., State Printers and Publishers.