Voters will see four proposals to amend the West Virginia Constitution at the very end of their ballot. For each, voters will be asked to indicate “yes” or “no.”
The proposed Amendment #1 clarifies that courts have no authority to interfere with impeachment proceedings of the House of Delegates or the Senate, and that a Senate judgment of impeachment is not reviewable by any court in the state.
Argument For: Avoid a repeat of the uncertainty encountered during the 2018 impeachment proceedings against all 5 state supreme court justices.
Argument Against: The West Virginia constitution already specifies the separation of powers between the branches of government, so an additional amendment is an unwarranted expansion of the power of the state legislature.
The proposed Amendment 2 would change the West Virginia Constitution to allow the Legislature to enact tax exemptions for business equipment, machinery, and inventory as well as for personal motor vehicles. A tax exemption sounds promising on its face, but opponents of Amendment 2 point to the loss of tax revenues that would squeeze local residents with replacement taxes or painful cuts in local government services.
In Jefferson County, the personal property tax provides about $2 million to the County budget (see pie chart below) and about $6 million to the Jefferson County Schools budget (spread across the school levy, the excess levy, and the bond levy) — roughly 5 percent of the Schools’ budget.
The principal argument against Amendment 2 is the lack of any specific plan or commitments from the Legislature on how to backfill the funds to localities. Supporters point to the many “options” the Legislature could pursue, but the overwhelming concern among local government officials is that there is no guarantee that the Legislature will provide the funds to make up for the missing revenue — or that any make-up funding would be reliable or not subsidize other areas of the state at the expense of Jefferson County taxpayers.
The proposed Amendment #3 authorizes churches and religious institutions to register as corporations. West Virginia is the only state in the country that presently does not allow churches and religious institutions to register as corporations. West Virginia state statute has allowed for incorporation of religious institutions since 2003, but the Constitution was never amended to support the 2003 statute.
Argument For: Allows churches and religious institutions to hold title to property, open bank accounts under the corporate name, and benefit from the liability shield of a corporate entity.
Argument Against: None found.
The proposed Amendment #4 expands the West Virginia Legislature’s oversight of the State Board of Education to include educational policy. Currently the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability has oversight of the State Board of Education. This amendment would expand the Legislature’s oversight to include policy.
Argument For: The Legislature has oversight authority over all other departments of the state government. This aligns oversight of the State Board of Education with all other departments of the state government.
Argument Against: The Legislature already has specific oversight authority over the State Board of Education. In the context of recent legislative debates, this amendment has the potential to inject even more partisan disagreements into the classroom.Steve Pearson