2016 Election Guide: Virginia’s proposed constitutional amendments

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electionPolls are set to open in the Historic Triangle on Nov. 8, and with Election Day looming, voters are preparing themselves for ballots filled with special elections and proposed constitutional amendments.

The Commonwealth of Virginia will have two proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this election.

Constitutional amendments may be placed on the ballot after they are proposed in the state Senate or House of Delegates, and if either house agrees by a majority of members elected to each of the houses, the proposed amendment or amendments, a roll call vote will be called and recorded.

The subsequent elected General Assembly will vote on the proposed amendment or amendments, and if passed by a majority of all the members of each house, then the proposed amendment or amendments will be sent to the citizens qualified to vote no sooner than ninety days after the final passage by the General Assembly.

If a majority of voters approve any proposed amendment, it becomes part of the Constitution of Virginia on the date prescribed by the General Assembly.

Proposed constitutional amendments may also be passed in a state constitutional convention.

The first ballot question on this election’s proposed constitutional amendments concerns the Virginia Bill of Rights.

Article I. Bill of Rights. Section 11-A. Right to work.

Question: Should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?

The Law Code of Virginia has reflected right to work legislation since 1947. It is illegal to deny employment to a nonmember of a labor union or other organization. It is also illegal to mandate membership in a labor union or other organization as a condition of employment or continuation of employment.

It is illegal for a labor union or other organization to acquire an employment monopoly in any such enterprise. Right to work legislation has been in effect in Virginia for 69 years. Only 9.24 percent of Virginians, or 774,423 citizens, were alive before this legislation became law in 1947, according to estimates by the United States Census. 

In a summary, the majority of Virginians have already been adhering to a version of the right to work law their entire lives. Adding the law to the state constitution would solidify the legislation and make it harder to revoke. 

The second ballot question on the proposed constitutional amendments concerns the Virginia tax code.

Article X. Taxation and Finance. Section 6-B. Property tax exemptions for spouses of certain emergency services provider.

Question: Shall the Constitution of Virginia be amended to allow the General Assembly to provide an option to the localities to exempt from taxation the real property of the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel who was killed in the line of duty, where the surviving spouse occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence and has not remarried?

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the General Assembly to provide an option to the localities to give the real property of the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel who was killed in the line of duty, a tax exempt status dependent on if the surviving spouse occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence. If the surviving spouse remarries, the tax exempt status ceases.