Update on Constitutional Amendments

February 17, 2017

Numerous Constitutional amendments were introduced this year, but only a few remain under consideration. In order to be incorporated into the Constitution, an amendment must pass this session and next session in identical form and then be approved by referendum (traditionally at the next November general election).

The following measures remain under consideration:

HJ 562 (Miyares), which incorporates a similar resolution, HJ 697 (Byron), allows surviving spouses of disabled veterans to continue to receive an exemption from property taxes if they relocate to another property. Currently, the surviving spouse must continue to occupy the real property for which the exemption was originally granted.  There was some discussion during the full House committee hearing about limiting the amount of the tax exemption provided for the new property to the amount previously received for the property for which the exemption was originally granted. Narrowing the exemption in this way would have to be done in the legislation the General Assembly would pass to implement the Constitutional language, should the voters approve the Constitutional amendment in 2018. This amendment has passed both chambers.

SJ 284 (Stuart) would expand the property tax exemption for surviving spouses of service members who are killed in action to include widows and widowers of service members who die in combat zones. The House amended the bill to conform it to HJ 562 (which provides for portability of the tax exemption for the surviving spouses of disabled veterans), but the patron rejected this amendment when the bill returned to the Senate. The bill now will be the subject of a conference committee.

HJ 545 (Head) deals with the General Assembly’s authority to suspend or nullify regulations promulgated by the executive branch. This measure has passed the House and is on the Senate floor. A similar measure, SJ 295 (Vogel), which is on the House floor, provides that the General Assembly may approve or reject administrative rules and that this action would not be subject to the Governor’s veto.

HJ 693 (LaRock) limits the use of transportation funds for purposes other than transportation. This measure has been termed the “single lockbox” because it prevents transportation funds from being diverted to non-transportation purposes, except by a super-majority vote of the General Assembly. In the past, the Senate has preferred a “double lockbox” approach that also prevents General Fund monies from being diverted to transportation. This measure has passed the House and is before the full Senate.

SJ 331 (Lewis) allows the General Assembly to authorize localities to provide a property tax exemption for flooding remediation projects. This resolution was narrowly reported by the House Privileges and Elections Committee (12-10) and will be on the House floor next week.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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