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Constitutional Amendments of Interest to Localities Introduced

In addition to two measures regarding charter schools (discussed in a separate article), a number of constitutional amendments of interest to localities have been introduced.

Prior to being placed before the voters in a statewide referendum, constitutional amendments must pass twice in identical form, once before a House of Delegates election and once afterwards. The Chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee has directed the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments to hear testimony on all amendments in its next several meetings prior to deciding on a limited number (no more than four) to advance to the full committee.

Among the Constitutional amendments under consideration are several making changes to existing property tax exemptions. HJ 562 (Miyares) and HJ 697 (Byron) modify the exemption for the surviving spouses of disabled veterans, which currently provides that the spouse must continue to occupy the real property for which the exemption was originally granted. Under HJ 562 and HJ 697, the exemption would apply to the spouse’s principal place of residence without restriction on the spouse relocating. The fiscal impact on localities is difficult to determine, as some surviving spouses may be “downsizing” to smaller residences, while others may be moving to larger properties. 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.

Two additional measures provide for local options for tax reductions. HJ 577 (Cole) would allow localities to reduce the assessed value of property abutting parcels on which local public improvements have been made, if these improvements would otherwise result in a significant increase in the fair market value of the property. The reduction would end when the property was sold or the owner died. HJ 706 (Rush) would allow a local governing body to provide for an exemption from personal property taxes for tangible personal property that is valued at $5,000 or less and used in a business.

HJ 634 (Cole) would allow the General Assembly to authorize an elected school board to tax real property in the school division.

The House measures have been referred to the House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments where they were heard on January 16. A decision on whether to recommend that the amendments be considered by the full committee will be made at an upcoming meeting, likely January 30. The Senate measure will be heard by the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.

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VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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