Election Guide: The Constitutional Amendments

On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to vote yes or no on two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution.

The Constitution may be amended in two ways.

The most common method is for a proposed amendment to be initiated by a majority vote of the House of Delegates or the Senate. The proposal is then automatically referred to the next legislative session following a general election of the House of Delegates. If then supported by a majority of each house, the proposal is sent to voters at referendum. If approved by a majority vote, it becomes part of the state’s constitution.

The constitution also may be amended through a constitutional convention called by a vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house.

The two amendments on the Nov. 8 ballot followed the traditional legislative process.

Virginia’s ‘Right to Work’ Amendment

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

Question One: “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 proposed amendment was initiated by statehouse Republicans with the intent to incorporate Virginia’s statutory prohibitions on mandatory union membership into the constitution, with the stated intent to block legislative attempts to change those rules.

A vote “for” the measure supports adding a section to the constitution that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership for employees as a condition for employment. A vote “against” the measure opposes adding this section to the constitution, while maintaining a similar law in state statutes.


First Responders Surviving Spouse Tax Exemption

Question Two: “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 amendment is intended to provide localities with the authority to enact tax exemptions for the spouse of first responders killed in the line of duty. If adopted by the local government, a surviving spouse would be eligible for a property tax exemption on his or her primary residences as long as not remarried.

In 2010, Virginians approved an amendment that provided property tax exemptions to military veterans if the veteran had a 100 percent permanent and total disability related to military service. Surviving spouses were also allowed to continue to claim the exemption if they continued to keep the same property as their primary residence and did not remarry. In 2014, voters overwhelmingly (87 percent to 13 percent) approved an expansion of the property tax to include surviving spouses of military members killed in action.

A vote for the measure supports providing a local option property tax exemption for surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty. A vote against the measure opposes providing this tax exemption.

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