Public can vote on two amendments to state constitution

Published 9:56 am Friday, October 28, 2016

Virginians casting their ballots this Election Day will not only get to choose a new president for the country, but they’ll also decide on two proposed amendments to the state constitution. One concerns the right to work with regard to labor unions, the other on granting a property tax exemption to surviving spouses of military personnel and first responders killed in the line of duty.

The first asks: “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?”

In short, employers and labor unions cannot deny work to someone who is not a member of a such an organization, or require joining such groups as a condition of employment. Nor can labor unions and the like have an employment monopoly.

This has been part of the Code of Virginia (40.1-59) since 1947. The offered amendment would move the rule to become part of the state constitution, which in the future could only be changed by another constitutional amendment decided on by voters, not the General Assembly.


The second proposal asks: “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?”

This proposed amendment would also authorize the General Assembly “to prescribe additional restrictions and conditions on the exemption from taxation if enacting such a law.”

Article X, Section 6-1 already requires the General Assembly to make such exemptions for qualified veterans (a 100 percent service-connected, permanent and total disability) as well as the surviving spouse of an eligible veteran. That applies to the chief place where they lived; the exemption ends if the surviving spouse gets remarried.

Further, the aforementioned exemption is also available to the “surviving spouse of any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who was killed in action, as determined by the U.S. Department of Defense. This exemption from taxation applies to the surviving spouse’s principal place of residence, and the exemption ceases if the surviving spouse remarries.”

All Virginia registrars offices will be open this Saturday, Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 for absentee voting. Contact your local registrar’s office for hours of operation.