A Northern Virginia state senator who changed his mind today first helped kill and later helped pass a measure designed to end an Alexandria controversy over business property taxes.
Splitting with his Northern Virginia colleagues, Sen. Edward M. Holland (D-Arlington) joined a group of state senators in initially opposing changes in the Alexandria City Charter that would allow the city's tax assessor to require businessmen to furnish a statement of income their properties generate for use in developing assessments.
Because the measure was a charter change it needed 27 votes to pass the 40-member State Senate. On its first try the measure failed, 26 to 10.
The measure's chief sponsor, Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell (R-Alexandria), then spent much of the remaining two hours of today's Senate session attempting to persuade Holland and some of the other opponents to change their minds.
Holland and two others agreed to switch their votes and the measure later passed the Senate on a 28-to-8 vote and was sent to the House, where its sponsors say it faces an uncertain future.
Today two of the senators who joined Holland in opposing the measure, Sen. Coleman B. Yeatts (D-Pittsylvania) and Sen. John C. Buchanan (D-Wise), voted against the measure initially because of what Mitchell said was misapprehension of its provisions. Yeatts, a representative of the tobacco-growing Southside, and opposed the measure, fearing it would enable Alexandria to impose additional taxes on tobacco, Mitchell said.Holland described his initial vote as a "protest vote" and said he changed his vote because he didn't realize that the measure needed 27 votes to pass. He said he was still unhappy with the bill's provisions, which he described as "pretty rough on landlords" and more far-reaching than provisions allowed Arlington's government.
During today's debate, however, the Alexandria charter provision was described as mild in comparison to disclosure requirements made of landlords in Richmond.
The Alexandria charter change is aimed at ending a dispute that dates back to the late 1960s when residential property owners protested in large numbers over the assessments given commercial and large apartment buildings in the city. Mitchell said most of the city's tax consultants had agreed that one of the fairest ways of determining the value of commercial property was to determine its profitability.
In another development, by a 27-to-7 vote, the Senate approved and sent to the House amendments to the state's Landlord and Tenant Act that would, among other things, require that landlords furnish new tenants with statements about any defects in apartments. Landlords who failed to provide such a statement to their tenants would not be able to assess them for damages done to the apartment, according to one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax).
The first of several bills designed to re-establsh the death penalty was reported out of the House of Delegates Courts of Justice Committee today by an overwhelming margin. Additional bills are expected to be reported out later.
The bill would establish a two-tiered jury system in which a defendant would be tried first for the crime he is accused of and, if convicted, given a second trial to establish his punishment. Under the terms of the bill reported out today, the death penalty could be levied for the murder of a prison guard by an inmate, killing for hire, murder in the commission of an abduction for profit, and killing in the course of or subsequent to the commission of a rape or an armed robbery.
The bill is expected to be debated on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
A bill designed to make not only the drinking of an alcholic beberage in public a misdemeanor but also the mere public possession of an open container of beer, wine or liquor a criminal offense provoked one of the more spirited debates in the House of Delegates today.
Del. Erwin S. Seymour (D-Bath), the bill's sponsor, said that the current law is unenforceable since a violator has to be caught actually taking a drink in public before he could be arrested. Under his proposal, he said, anyone caught with an open container of an alcoholic beverage would also be liable for prosecution.
"You mean that if my buddy and I were standing on a street corner and I was drinking a beer and I saw a police officer coming and I handed the beer to my friend and took off around the corner, he could be arrested?" asked Garry G. De Bruhl (D-Patrick).
After a number of delegates suggested the possibility that they might be arrested in their backyards while enjoying a beer on a summer evening and expressed concern over the bill's possible effect on the Shad Planking, an annual Virginia political rite, the bill went down to defeat on a voice vote.