IN VIRGINIA, four proposed amendments to the state constitution will be on the ballot. Because these proposals involve fundamental changes in state government procedures as well as questions of local options, they deserve special scrutiny:
Question No. 1 -- Authorizing the General Assembly "to convene for a limited period of time to consider legislation vetoed by the governor." The constitution now provides for annual sessions of the state legislature; if the governor vetoes a bill during a session, the legislators can vote to override. But if the governor acts after adjournment, there is no provision enabling the lawmakers to do anything about a veto. The proposal would provide for a three-day session for reconsideration of vetoed bills. This change would mean that a governor could not simply kill a measure outright by waiting until the lawmakers go home. It deserves voter support.
Question No. 2 -- Decreasing the maximum indebtedness a city or town may incur. The constitution now limits the amount of money a city or town may borrow to 18 percent of the assessed value of taxable real estate. The proposed amendment would lower this limit to 10 percent for long-term borrowing by general obligation bonds. The effect would be to put additional unnecessary and unwise restrictions on the ability of elected local governments in towns and cities (counties are not included) to act responsibly. Voters who believe that local governments should decide purely local questions should reject this proposal.
Question No. 3 -- Authorizing the General Assembly to extend certain tax exemptions to the elderly and disabled. Local governments now are authorized to extend real estate tax exemptions to low-income people who are 65 or older or permanently and totally disabled -- but mobile homes are not classed as real estate. This would merely allow local governments -- if they wish -- to extend similar tax relief to mobile home dwellers.Again, it is a question of local option, and it deserves a vote of support.
Question No. 4 -- Permitting certain tax exemptions for equipment used to replace oil or natural gas equipment installed after Dec. 31, 1974. Like it or not, all property tax exemptions must be listed in the state constitution. This proposal would allow local governments to exempt this kind of equipment if it is used in manufacturing. And such decisions would be up to the local governments -- which is reason enough for voters to approve this loosening of the grip from Richmond.