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Cole kills bills that must wait until 2015

RICHMOND—Every state legislator has had a hand in killing other lawmakers’ bills. But it’s not often they can single-handedly wipe out more than 20.

Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania, did just that Thursday.

Cole, who is chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, stood on the House floor to tell his colleagues that his committee would not be hearing any of the nearly 25 first-year constitutional amendments, 18 of which came from House members.

That’s because constitutional amendments in Virginia have to go through a multi-step process—they have to be passed twice by the legislature with an election held in between, and then go to the ballot for a vote.

The House just had its election last fall, and won’t have one this year. That means any passage of a constitutional amendment this year would essentially be pointless—it would also have to pass again next year, and the year after that, to be legal.

While lawmakers know that, that hasn’t stopped them from filing the amendments.

Six of the proposals would have repealed Virginia’s constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage, which passed in late 2006.

One would have term-limited members of the General Assembly. Two called for Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Others touched on redistricting, governors’ terms of office, charter schools and transportation funds.

There are always lawmakers who file constitutional amendments in off years. In 2012, there were also more than 20. And for every first-year resolution proposed that year, you can read the same fate—“left in Privileges and Elections,” legislative-speak for one of the ways a bill dies quietly, without a vote, in the General Assembly. The Senate let its own resolutions die slightly differently—they were “continued to 2013,” which simply saved the senators proposing them the trouble of refiling those bills, something the delegates whose off-year amendments were left in Privileges and Elections had to do.

Cole said his committee will hear the sole second-year resolution, a proposed amendment that passed last year that would allow localities to provide a tax exemption for spouses of military members killed in action.

If that amendment passes both houses again this year, it will go—as all constitutional amendments do—to the voters on the November ballot. If it’s approved, it will become part of the constitution.

Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245


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