Drafting legislation that doesn’t draw a single no vote among members of Virginia’s General Assembly is no easy feat, yet in 2010 a coalition of state senators and delegates managed just that.
Three years ago the state legislature passed much-lauded measures, SJ13 and HJ33, that called for a Virginia constitutional amendment to exempt severely disabled veterans from paying real property taxes. That legislation passed the Senate and House unanimously and was approved through a statewide voter referendum in 2010.
“This amendment will provide tangible and needed support to severely disabled veterans so they can afford to stay in their homes,” state Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller (D-36th), one of the chief patrons of the legislation, said after the bill’s passage. “The disabled veterans who will benefit from this tax exemption have made tremendous sacrifices in defense of their country and deserve this modest measure of relief.”
The tax exemption is also offered to the spouses of the disabled veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran who was previously eligible for the exemption before passing away, as long as the surviving spouse does not remarry and continues to occupy the real property as his or her principal place of residence.
Yet when Del. David David Ramadan (R-87th), elected to the General Assembly in 2011, was studying the legislation, he felt there was a glaring omission: Spouses of military members who died while serving on active duty were not offered the same tax relief.
Ramadan, with what he hopes will be “widespread bipartisan support” in the 2013 session, has patroned House Joint Resolution 551, a proposed constitutional amendment providing a real property tax exemption for the primary residence of surviving spouses of members of the military who are killed in action.
Eleven of Ramadan’s colleagues had already signed on as sponsors for the legislation as of Jan. 15.
Ramadan noted HJ 551 is one of his 2013 proposals he’s especially proud of during an interview in December. From his viewpoint, he said it’s common-sense legislation that makes life easier for people who fought for, honored and protected out nation.
The earliest the measure can become law, however, is 2015. According to Virginia code, any proposal to exempt someone from real estate taxes must be passed as a constitutional amendment, which means Ramadan’s bill must pass the General Assembly in the 2013 and 2014 sessions, and then be sent to a statewide voter referendum.
As with the current disabled veteran tax relief law, the tax exemption would also apply to the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran as long as they remain unmarried and live in the house.
In the General Assembly’s upper house, Sens. William Stanley (R-20th) and Richard Stuart (R-28th) have sponsored identical legislation.
When asked why the spouses of deceased veterans weren’t included in the 2010 measure, Puller on Jan. 8 said there was some concern among legislators about the overall cost of the exemption to the state. While Puller said she supports the concept of the 2013 legislation, she believes there will need to be a fiscal impact study before certain members of both houses will favor it.
Ramadan noted that concern in December, but still believes the cost to the state would be minimal.
“I’m sorry, somebody gives the ultimate sacrifice and dies, the least I can do is not charge his wife or her husband taxes on their house,” Ramadan said. “Especially that we already exempted the disabled veteran’s taxes. It’s a slap in the face for the people that have died.”
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