Constitutional amendments on redistricting, car tax exemption likely headed to conference

February 14, 2019

HJ 676 (Filler-Corn), as passed by the House, provides for a local option to exempt from personal property taxes one motor vehicle belonging to a veteran with a 100 percent service-connected, permanent and total disability.  As introduced, the resolution would have required this exemption.  VACo objected to expanding mandatory property tax relief to another type of property, as the existing mandatory real estate tax exemptions (for disabled veterans and their surviving spouses and the surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in action) have been costly to localities, and the resolution was amended in a subcommittee of House Privileges and Elections to provide instead for a local option.  SJ 278 (Reeves), as passed by the Senate, remains a mandate on localities.  On Monday, the same subcommittee of House Privileges and Elections conformed SJ 278 to the local-option language passed by the House; Senate Privileges and Elections took similar action on HJ 676 on Tuesday, conforming the local-option version to the Senate’s mandatory version.  The resolutions will likely be placed in a conference committee early next week.  VACo will advocate for the local option to prevail in conference.

HJ 615 (Cole) deals largely with a process for drawing state House and Senate and Congressional districts by a redistricting commission, but also includes provisions requiring local governing bodies that are elected from districts to establish a local independent redistricting commission after each decennial census.  This commission would be composed of four members, with equal representation given to the two parties with the highest vote totals at the most recent gubernatorial election.  SJ 306 (Barker) also deals with state-level redistricting, although it takes a different approach to the appointment of a state-level redistricting commission, and does not address redistricting at the local level.

VACo has taken no position on the redistricting process at the state level but has expressed concern about the inclusion of local districts in HJ 615, viewing the requirement to establish the redistricting commission as unnecessary.  Localities currently have the option to convene advisory redistricting commissions, the membership of which may extend beyond the political party representatives envisioned in the resolution.  As many local elected officials run for office without party endorsements, establishing a commission composed of party representatives may have the unintended consequence of injecting partisanship into the drawing of local districts.  This issue is expected to be resolved in conference; on Monday, the same House Privileges and Elections subcommittee conformed SJ 306 to the House measure, and the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee acted similarly on HJ 615 on Tuesday.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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