Call for Change to Communication Taxes

By Chris L. Jenkins
Friday, January 27, 2006

The House of Delegates voted 62 to 35 to approve legislation that would change how Virginia taxes phone, cable, wireless and Internet phone services.

The proposed tax system would replace what supporters of the bill call an antiquated mix of local levies. The bill, sponsored by Del. Samuel A. Nixon (R-Chesterfield), would eliminate a combination of local and state taxes and fees on telephone, paging, cable and cell phone use and create a flat 5 percent tax statewide on all communications services, including satellite television and Internet telephone for the first time.

Supporters said that it was necessary to help localities prepare for a declining revenue base as more state residents use cell phones instead of landlines and use satellite television in addition to cable.

The state would collect the tax, and cities and counties would get a share equal to what they collect from the local fees and taxes, about $425 million.

The bill must now go before the state Senate, where a similar bill died last year.

Satellite companies said the bill unfairly burdens their consumers. Rural lawmakers said their constituents would be heavily impacted because rural areas rely more on satellite service.

Owners of Dangerous Pets, Beware

The Virginia Senate has approved a bill to impose penalties on dog owners whose pets injure or kill people. The bill was offered by Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) in response to a March incident in which an 82-year-old woman was killed by three pit bulls as she walked her dog on a neighborhood street. Authorities said the dogs were allowed to run free even though there had been suspicions that they had killed neighborhood pets.

If the bill passes, any dog owner whose pet injures or kills a person or other animal could be charged with a crime. Penalties would be more severe if the dog had been labeled "dangerous" by a court. Such dogs would have to be registered with the state.

The bill, SB 200, passed the Senate unanimously but must still receive the backing of the House of Delegates and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to become law.

Red-Light Bill Gets Green Light

A measure to allow several Northern Virginia jurisdictions, including Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax counties, to use cameras at intersections to monitor red-light running has the approval of a Senate committee.

A House of Delegates committee ended the 10-year-old practice last year. They cited concerns over the privacy rights of drivers. Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax) said she felt it was important to sponsor the bill, SB453, even though the proposal faces little chance of success in the House. "I feel, and statistics show, the program was successful," she said.

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company