Voters heading to the polls in November will decide the fate of four amendments to the state Constitution, two of which have already sparked controversy.
Secretary of State Mac Warner said that to be part of the state Constitution, an amendment must pass a majority of voters who voted on the matter.
Lawmakers voted in the 2022 session to add the amendments to the ballot.
“Voters are being asked to consider four separate amendments to the State Constitution,” Warner said in a review of the amendments. “Amendments to our Constitution must be carefully considered and considered by every citizen.”
General elections will be held on November 8.
Two of these amendments have already caused controversy.
The Property Tax Modernization Amendment, listed on the ballot as Amendment No. 2, “would amend the State Constitution by giving the Legislature the power to exempt tangible machinery and equipment from personal property directly used in commercial activity and personal property in tangible inventory directly used in business. activity and property tax on motor vehicles from common law ad valorem property taxation.
These taxes currently provide localities with revenue for county services as well as schools.
For example, Mercer County receives about $11 million a year in taxes, with schools receiving about $8 million and the county’s $3 million, money used for services such as law enforcement and parks, said Mercer County Assessor Lyle Cottle.
Lawmakers have said they want to eliminate taxes and replace lost county money, which statewide totals more than $500 million a year.
State Sen. Chandler Swope, R-6th District, is a longtime supporter of eliminating the equipment and inventory tax as a way to attract businesses to the state and help those that are already there. He also supports an end to the property tax on vehicles, another attraction to bring people to the state.
Swope said lawmakers were working on a plan to establish an ongoing revenue stream to replace the money counties would lose. This plan should be ready before the elections, he added.
However, Cottle said county assessors are waiting to see how counties will be reimbursed and to ensure there is a recurring revenue stream to do so each year.
Of the. Marty Gearheart, R.-Mercer County, also supports ending taxes, but only if a continued source of revenue is established so counties can be reinstated.
But voters must first approve the amendment to give lawmakers the power to end the taxes.
Amendment No. 4 is referred to as the Education Accountability Amendment and concerns the clarification “that rules and policies promulgated by the State Board of Education are subject to review, approval, modification or legislative rejection”.
This amendment, if passed, would give lawmakers approval authority over decisions made by the state Board of Education on rules and policies.
“As part of its oversight functions, the West Virginia Board of Education may promulgate rules or policies which shall be submitted to the Legislature for consideration and approval, modification or rejection, in whole or in part, as prescribed by the general law,” says the amendment.
When House and Senate lawmakers in March approved Joint Resolution 102 to put the amendment on the November ballot, opposition quickly surfaced.
“The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) is comprised of citizens of diverse backgrounds and educational expertise who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for overlapping terms,” a WVBE statement said. “This ensures continuity and balance in political and geographical representation and creates stability for decision-making.”
The state council said it was also about ensuring that those who make decisions about education are directly linked to education.
“Governance by the nonpartisan State Board of Education provides more than a cohesive and stabilizing foundation for public schools, but also a diverse panel of experts who are connected to teachers, students and families across the State,” the statement said. said. “The board can respond quickly to the needs of educators and students, as has been most evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
State Superintendent of Education Clayton Burch said education policy should not be driven by “the winds of political change”.
“We often talk about the need to pivot to meet the growing and changing needs of our educational community,” Burch said after the March vote. “The board has the flexibility to act with agility and efficiency to support our children, educators and staff in the face of change. For example, we encountered minimal notice to issue waivers. The Council also traveled and held meetings throughout the state to be accessible to communities and hear citizen concerns. This is the start of a new era of teaching and learning and our focus must not swing with the winds of political change but must remain on the progress and development of our students.
Ballot Amendment No. 1 clarifies the role of the judiciary in impeachment proceedings.
Warner said the purpose was to clarify that “the courts have no authority or jurisdiction to intervene or intervene in or interfere with the impeachment proceedings of the House of Delegates or the Senate; and specifying that a judgment rendered by the Senate following an impeachment trial is not reviewable by any court of this State.
Basically, the amendment makes it clear that the impeachment process is the sole jurisdiction of the House of Delegates or the Senate and that each body conducts the impeachment trial and sentencing requires two-thirds of the elected members.
“No court in this State has any authority or jurisdiction, in writing or otherwise, to intercede or intervene in, or interfere with, any impeachment proceedings of the House of Delegates or the Senate conducted in hereunder; nor is any judgment rendered by the Senate as a result of an impeachment trial reviewable by a court in that state,” the amendment reads.
The incorporation of churches or religious denominations is also on the ballot as Amendment No. 3.
The voters will decide if this incorporation can be authorized.
According to the National Center for Life and Freedom, incorporating a church has several advantages, including protecting individual church members from personal liability for the negligent actions of other members and allowing churches to more easily conduct business transactions as well as withdraw loans and own and transfer property.
— Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]