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Commonwealth's Counties

Constitutional Amendments Advance in Senate, Stall in House

A handful of Constitutional amendments have been passed by the Senate and await action in the House.  Of particular interest to local governments are the following:

  • SJ 231 (McPike) would extend the current real property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of any member of the armed forces of the United States who was killed in action to surviving spouses of servicemembers who die in the line of duty with a Line of Duty determination from the Department of Defense. Legislation enacted in 2022 authorizes localities to declare property owned by these surviving spouses as a separate class of property and impose a different rate of taxation than that imposed on the general class of real property (this rate can be lower than the general real property tax rate but cannot be zero).
  • SJ 247 (Hashmi), as introduced, would allow the General Assembly to authorize local governing bodies to fully or partially exempt from property taxes real estate that is designed for continuous habitation and owned and occupied by persons of low income or low financial worth. The introduced version would allow a local governing body to establish its own income limitations or financial worth limitations, or both, in order to qualify for such relief.  A floor substitute approved by the Senate on February 6 revised the proposal by requiring the statutory provisions that would govern the program to be more prescriptive.  The Constitutional language in the floor substitute would require the enabling statutes to establish annual household income limits, stipulate that the real property be designed for single-family habitation and owned and continuously occupied as the sole dwelling of the person for a prescribed minimum number of years, require that the assessment on the property has increased by a prescribed minimum percentage over the previous year or years, and require that the taxes on the property are current or that the person has entered into a plan for payment of any delinquent taxes.

Constitutional amendments that were not taken up in the House prior to “crossover” included the following:

  • HJ 458 (Anderson), which would have imposed term limits on state legislators and local and Constitutional officers.
  • HJ 459 (Rasoul), which would have allowed persons 16 or older to vote in local elections.
  • HJ 462 (Anderson), which would have exempted motor vehicles (defined as automobiles, motorcycles, and pickup trucks) owned by an individual for personal, noncommercial use from taxation.
  • HJ 497 (Reid), which would have provided for a tax exemption for the real property of a surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States who died in the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
  • HJ 517 (Leftwich), which would have enabled the General Assembly to authorize localities to provide for full or partial exemption from real property taxation of real estate on which housing is to be constructed.
  • HJ 531 (Hope), which would have provided for a tax exemption for property owned by a chartered organization and used solely for the purpose of supporting one or more scouting units holding a charter issued by the Boy Scouts of America or Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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