understanding the state amendments

Brent Finnegan -- October 24th, 2006

As I’ve said before, there are three proposed amendments to the state constitution on the ballot this November. The one getting the most media coverage is of course the amendment to define marriage as “between one man and one woman.” There are a zillion blog posts, editorials, and news stories on the web arguing for and against the amendment (Google “Virginia marriage amendment” and see what you get) so I’m not going to go into it here, except to say that every statewide poll I’ve read indicates that the amendment will pass, with something like 51 – 58 percent of Virginians voting in favor of it, and six percent undecided. If it passes, Virginia will be the 21st state to pass such an amendment.

What troubles me is how uninformed people are about the amendments. The other day I was talking to a conservative co-worker (against gay marriage) and she said she’s going to vote “no,” thinking that a no vote was a vote against gay marriage. Several weeks ago, I was talking with a “liberal” friend of mine who said he was voting yes (which he thought was in favor of gay marriage). Folks, you really need to educate yourselves and actually look at the ballot before you go in to vote. Read the amendment before voting, or just stay at home on November 7.

Besides the marriage amendment, there are two other amendments on the ballot that hardly anyone is talking about–probably because no one understands what they are, or why they’re even on the ballot in the first place. One is “Shall [the state constitution] be amended by deleting the provision that prohibits the incorporation of churches, a provision that was ruled to be unconstitutional and is now obsolete?” Yes or No.

One could assume that the only logical choice for this one would be yes (only because “duh” is not an option). If I’m not mistaken, this came about after the 2002 case of Falwell v Miller, in which the federal district court for the Western District of Virginia ruled (in favor of Jerry Falwell) that this provision of the Virginia Constitution is unconstitutional because it violates the federal constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Prior to the Falwell case, Virginia and West Virginia were the only two states where churches and other religious denominations could not incorporate… In other words, no matter what you vote for, section 14 article 4 is moot, whether it stays on there or not.

The third amendment reads, “Shall [the state constitution] be amended to authorize legislation to permit localities to provide a partial exemption from real property taxes for real estate with new structures and improvements, conservation, redevelopment, or rehabilitation services.” Translation: If this passes, the state legislature (Richmond) would have the ability to pass laws that would allow localities (H’burg city council, Rockingham BoS, etc) to grant property tax exemptions to businesses to build or make improvements of their current buildings. I’m still waiting to hear back from a few city officials about what this would mean in practice (attracting new companies to town, etc).

Also, in addition to the three amendments, there are three (3) candidates running for senator: George Allen, Jim Webb, and Glenda Gail Parker. There are also three (3) candidates on the ballot for Virginia’s 6th House District: Bob Goodlatte, Barbara Jean Pryor, and Andre Peery. Do everyone a favor and at least attempt to do some of your own research on these candidates before you vote.


2 Responses to “understanding the state amendments”

  1. cheezedunx says:

    Provided by the Virginia State Board of Elections, this site describes in more detail each amendment. It discusses current law and what changes are proposed.


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