Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Power to the People & Stimulating Ideas

Today, I introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would permit localities representing 2/3rd of the population of Virginia to repeal a provision of state law upon passing identical resolutions within a twenty-four month period. You can read the bill here.

Virginia adheres to the Dillon Rule - the idea that localities can only exercise the powers that are granted to them by State Government. This bill would result in a very small modification of that concept.

When the budget heads south, state government frequently passes the buck on budget decisions to local governments instead of making difficult choices themselves. For example, last session the State reduced the per diem that it transfers to localities for housing state prisoners. This alone cost Fairfax County $5 million per year. Last year's budget actions transferred $20 million per year of responsibilities to Fairfax County. Spread that across the entire state and real money is in play.

Pursuant to this proposed amendment localities representing 5.3 million Virginians could repeal a provision of state law. If Virginia's largest localities were to unanimously agree, a repeal could not be effective without dozens of small localities or nearly all of Virginia's mid-tier population jurisdictions consent - a tall burden. Inversely, it is impossible to get over 5.3 million Virginians without one of the six largest jurisdictions in Virginia (Fairfax, Virginia Beach, Prince William, Chesterfield, Loudoun or Henrico). In other words, an issue would have to garner broard urban-suburban-rural or Democratic and Republican support.

This proposed authority would not be successfully invoked unless the legislature were to seriously overstep the public's will. It would improve fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability and empower localities like Fairfax County that are frequently forced to fund mandates from the state.

Also, this amendment would promote the discussion of state policy throughout the Commonwealth. The General Assembly does not have a monopoly on ideas. If localities could play a small role in revising state law, more people would have an opportunity to generate ideas and be heard. It is a minor change to state-locality relations and I hope it receives a robust discussion.

You can watch my interview yesterday on the NBC12 below or read my press release on the bill below that.

HJ 604 Press Release 1-11-11


  1. What made you choose this avenue over a measure that would prohibit the General Assembly (of which you ARE a member) from passing the buck on to localities?

  2. This is a good first step in overturning the Dillon Rule in Virginia. It is ironic that we have Big Government (Richmond) intervening in the affairs of localities in a state whose politics have been dominated by self-described small government conservatives for decades. We need to reorganize Virginia government around the principle of subsidiarity, where decisions are made as close to the citizen as possible.

  3. Scott:

    Well done! This is one of the first times I have seen a member of Northern Virginia's General assembly delegation do something for the constituents of Northern Virginia. I think you are on the right track. However, I have always wondered about something (along the lines of AMCIT's comment) ... why don't NoVA's GA members form a voting bloc with other urban and suburban legislators in the General Assembly? I understand that Northern Virginia lacks the votes in the GA to protect the interests of urban and suburban voter - taxpayers. But wouldn't a bloc of legislators from NoVa, Tidewater, Richmond and Charlottesville be more able to represent the common interests of urban and suburban Virginians? Why doesn't this "coalition of the willing" exist?

    "Carrier of the Fire" hits on a great point. The Republicans in Virginia's state house are largely a crock of you know what. They huff and puff about big government but want the police to arrest people for playing poker in their own homes. They whine and cry about the welfare state but happily take an unending wealth transfer from largely Democratic suburban locales to largely Republican rural and small town locales. They say they don't want to raise taxes but are thrilled at the prospect at selling publicly owned roads to private companies so that outrageously expensive tolls can be collected. Of course, the brilliance of this "privatization" applies only to urban and suburban areas. When the same approach was suggested for Rt 81, the phony baloneys cried like little girls.

    What a crock.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. AMCIT - the way the budget process works in Virginia, asking the General Assembly to do that isn't realistic. We'd never pass a budget.


    Thanks. First, is that Mt. Vernon Groveton or Prince William Groveton?

    Second, it is very difficult for Northern Virginia Republicans to vote regionally on all issues because their caucus will "bind" their votes on important issues - require them to vote a certain way - such as on the Budget. The GOP Caucus has a much more rural base so they tend to lean that way although that's a bit of an over simplification.

    I agree on some of the contradictions. Both parties are for big government and small government depending on the issue.

    Our next redistricting will transfer about 5% more voting power (2.5 seats) to the Northern Virginia. We'll see if that makes any difference.

  5. Isn't this why we elect representatives? To find solutions to hard problems? Your answer about caucuses seems to imply that all our representatives place party over constituents, which in my mind is a statement of abdication of responsibility.

    And I have to stand against this, as I'm firmly in the Dillon Rule camp. As long as my government cannot find a way to cut unnecessary programs to balance its budget (as I must to manage my household budget) I cannot see giving localities additional taxing power. And, without having taken the time to perform an exhaustive analysis of this bill, I fear its unintended consequences.

  6. AMCIT

    The Democratic Caucus has never binded anyone. The GOP does it - again on important votes, not all the time.

    Scott S.