By Brandon Martin
In addition to candidates, voters will have a number of initiatives to consider on this year’s ballot.
Two of the initiatives — Amendments I and II of the Constitution of Virginia — will be on the ballot for the entire state. A third proposal — a referendum on the local sales tax — will be on the ballot in certain localities.
Virginians will be asked to consider Amendment I, which will affect redistricting in the area.
The amendment reads “Should the Constitution of Virginia be amended to establish a redistricting commission, consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth, that is responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts that will be subsequently voted on, but not changed by, the General Assembly and enacted without the Governor’s involvement and to give the responsibility of drawing districts to the Supreme Court of Virginia if the redistricting commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to enact districts by certain deadlines?”
Ninth District Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, recently stumped in favor of the amendment at a GOP rally in Patrick County.
It would create a bipartisan group that will draw new district lines that will go into effect for the 2021 election. He explained that based on the results from the census, the General Assembly has historically drawn new lines that last 10 years.
“There’s been some abuse by that — some by both parties,” he said, adding that the idea of the proposed amendment is to put a bipartisan commission in charge of drawing the lines.
The plans would then be submitted to legislators, who can vote up or down, but cannot make changes. If legislators cannot agree with the lines proposed by the commission, then Poindexter said the Supreme Court of Virginia would draw or modify the lines according to their prerogative.
“It’s not a perfect deal, but it’s 95 percent better than anything we’ve had in Virginia in our lifetimes. I would truly encourage you to vote for that amendment,” Poindexter said.
The second proposed amendment would negate state and local taxation of an automobile owned by a disabled veteran.
The amendment reads “Should an automobile or pickup truck that is owned and used primarily by or for a veteran of the United States armed forces or the Virginia National Guard who has a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be free from state and local taxation?”
“I think that’s a good amendment as well,” Poindexter said.
The ballot also features a referendum on local sales tax for 9th and 5th District residents.
Fifth District Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, had pushed for the referendum to be included this year.
Marshall said this will give voters the option to decide whether or not to increase the sales tax in Henry County by one percent. The funds will specifically be set aside for school construction and major renovation work.
The referendum will apply to Henry and Patrick counties, but the City of Martinsville opted not to be included, according to Marshall.
“This is a serious amount of money that could go towards school construction and renovation,” County Administrator Tim Hall said. “The thing with the sales tax is it’s a user’s tax. If grandma from Pennsylvania comes into town and buys something, she’s paying that tax too. It’s not just incumbent on the residents.”
If the referendum is approved, the local sales tax will increase from 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent. Henry County typically receives $4-5 million from the state every year for the current one percent collected.
The one percent is projected to double that amount.
The proposed increase is to expire on July 28, 2040. During the interim, Henry County would collect an additional estimated $100 million.