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LTM Editorial: Questions on the ballot

While Nov. 6 will allow voters to cast their lot with either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama and make their choice for Congress and the local town elections, there remains a couple questions at the bottom of the ballot that deserve your attention.

Amendments to the Virginia Constitution
The first two are proposed amendments to the Virginia constitution. Neither are particularly groundbreaking, but we find ourselves recommending one and not the other.

The first deals with a matter of procedure in the General Assembly. It reads like this:

Shall Section 6 of Article IV (Legislature) of the Constitution of Virginia concerning legislative sessions be amended to allow the General Assembly to delay by no more than one week the fixed starting date for the reconvened or “veto” session when the General Assembly meets after a session to consider the bills returned to it by the Governor with vetoes or amendments?

Every year, the governor returns bills to the legislature, either with recommended changes or rejected outright. The General Assembly then either accepts the changes and vetoes or rejects the governor’s requests. Currently, this must occur on the sixth Wednesday after the session. The proposal allows them to reschedule this veto session for another day in that next week. This is designed to allow delegates and senators to avoid having this special meeting on a religious holiday.

While we remain slightly perplexed as to how this has only become an issue now, we can see no reason not to support this amendment.

The second constitutional amendment under review deals with eminent domain. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court approved the use of eminent domain by New London, Connecticut for economic development purposes – basically allowing the city to condemn property and then transferring the property to a private business. The General Assembly has already passed laws against this type of transfer.

The proposed question is:

Shall Section 11 of Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended (i) to require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development; (ii) to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and (iii) to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use?

It would appear that this is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist in Virginia, where eminent domain is already tightly controlled by statute. The amendment would appear to be more of a political move than anything else. Additionally, the broad terms used might impact some valid uses of eminent domain. If a transportation project hurt access to a business or farm, would the state need to pay for that reduction of value?

No one is arguing for eminent domain being used more often, but an amendment to the state constitution is too strong a solution when the problem isn’t apparent. Simply put, Virginia has existing law on the subject that appears to work and there are too many potential unforeseen consequence to recommend this approach. We recommend against this amendment.

Local Bond Questions
Closer to home, Loudoun residents will also be asked to approve two bond items.

The first item asks voters to approve a $2,750,000 bond for fire and rescue apparatus. The second is for $136,150,000 for school construction and renovation.

Both bonds appear reasonable. And while residents should always be cautious when our local debt load, both bonds appear necessary to service the residents of Loudoun.

Our Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management workers continue to work tirelessly for the people of Loudoun. It would be foolish to not provide them additional equipment to protect our growing population.

The school bond includes funds for the construction of a new high school at Loudoun Valley Estates II (HS-6) and a new elementary school in Dulles South (ES-21).

It also includes funds for the renovation of Loudoun Valley High School. Loudoun Valley recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and there have been repeated concerns regarding the facility.

It should be noted that this bond item is not approving that these construction projects be completed – that decision has already been made. This vote deals with how these projects will be funded, and a bond item will be easier to manage than attempting to push it into the regular school budget with the requisite lump tax increase. 

But even so, there remains an ethical duty to provide the students of Loudoun County with a place to go to school. People come to Loudoun to raise a family and the quality of that education pays off for our children and in our ability to draw business to the area.
We recommend both bond items.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6 and we urge you to make your way to the polls again this year and cast your ballot for the candidate of your choice and on these bond issues and constitutional questions placed on the ballot.


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