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Monday, October 10, 2016

Constitutional amendments, meals tax, bonds on the ballot

With early voting already under way, here’s what you need to know before heading to the polls.

In addition to the presidential candidates, the ballot includes candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, a Fairfax County referendum on a meals tax, two constitutional questions, and three bond issues.

While Election Day is Nov. 8, absentee in-person voting is well under way at the Fairfax County Government Center and at satellite locations on Saturdays. Beginning Oct. 17, you can vote at the Mason Government Center on weekdays, 2-8 p.m., as well as Saturdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. There are 19 valid reasons to vote absentee. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 17. Check your registration status and verify your absentee vote here.

In the 11th congressional district, which covers most of the Annandale/Mason District area, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), the incumbent, is unopposed.

The 8th district, which covers part of the Alexandria and Falls Church areas in Mason District, is considered a safe seat for Democrats. The incumbent, Don Beyer (D), faces two challengers: Charles Hernick, a Republican, and Julio Gracia, an independent.

Michael Webb is also running for Congress in the 8th district but is not on the ballot. The self-proclaimed right-wing independent sends at least one bizarre press release to people on his email list every day with eye-catching titles. Webb’s Oct. 8 release, blasting Hernick for gaining the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, is titled: “Webb Blasts Angelo and Log Cabin Whorehouse: ‘For $250 They Will Suck Hernick’s Cocker Spaniel!”

Back to what’s actually on the ballot: Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on whether the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors should be authorized to levy a tax of up to 4 percent on prepared food and beverages.

The meals tax, aimed at reducing dependence on real estate taxes, is needed to maintain a high quality school system, proponents charge. If implemented, 70 percent of the net revenues would be dedicated to Fairfax County Public Schools, the referendum states, while the rest would support county services, capital improvements and property tax relief.

One of the constitutional amendments on the ballot calls for a yes or no vote on whether to incorporate Virginia’s right-to-work statute into the Virginia Constitution.  The right-to-work law, on the books since 1947, makes it illegal for workplaces to require employees to be union members.

If this provision is added to the constitution, it could only be changed by a future constitutional amendment approved by voters. Statutes can be revised by the General Assembly.

The other constitutional amendment on the ballot would authorize the General Assembly to enact a property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or first responder killed in the line of duty. The tax exemption would cease if the surviving spouse remarries.

This amendment builds upon an existing constitutional amendment that grants a similar tax exemption to the spouse of a member of the U.S. armed forced killed in action or a military veteran with a 100 percent service-connected permanent and total disability.

One of the three Fairfax County bond referendums on the ballot would provide $85 million for human services and community development, including $48 million to renovate, expand, or replace four of the county’s homeless shelters. One of projects is the relocation of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter from Moncure Avenue to a new building on Seminary Road.

The rest of the funds from that bond would be used to replace the Sully Senior Center and build a new community center in Lorton.

The $107 million parks bond would fund capital projects to support natural and cultural resources; acquire land to serve park-deficient areas and protect resources; renovate and upgrade aging community park facilities, such as playgrounds, courts, infrastructure, and trails; and develop a new baseball complex to serve the entire county.

Projects in Mason District include the renovation of Hidden Oaks Nature Center, which was built in 1969, and the development of a new park, the seven-acre Boyd and Charlotte Hogge Park, on Glen Carlyn Road in Bailey’s Crossroads.

The county would use $12.3 million from the park bond funds to pay its contribution to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.

The $120 million transportation bond would provide funding for the next four years for Fairfax County’s share of Metro’s capital improvement program. That includes safety and system maintenance projects, new rail cars and power upgrades for running eight-car trains, additional buses for operating “priority corridor networks,” and rail station improvements to increase the capacity of the rail system infrastructure.


  1. Looks like GOP is worried that an eventual Democratic takeover of the legislature and governor's office would result in a repeal of the Commonwealth's right to work law. Making that law a constitutional provision would make it virtually repeal proof. This sets a terrible precedent. If this stunt works, I wonder how many other lousy pieces of partisan legislation the GOP will try to shelter in the constitution.

    1. I think you are mistaken and exaggerating what is going on here.

      A Virginia Constitution provision will not be effective if it stands in the way of human progress.

      Democrats will correctly allege the provision in the Virginia Constitution is un-Constitutional under the Constitution of the USA, and will be able to find federal Judges appointed by Obama, Clinton, and even the Bush's to uphold the decision.

      This is how Democrats have recently achieved great victories by overturning the provision of the Virginia Constitution passed by a majority of the Virginians voting at the time that defined marriage to be between a man and a women; this is also how Democrats have recently redefined the US Constitution provision prohibiting discrimination based on gender to include discrimination based on gender identity to ensure "bathroom equality" and other important rights for transgender individuals.

      The will of the people reflected in prior elections and Constitutional provisions will not stop the march of progress that Democrats, at great cost and much sacrifice throughout history, have and will continue to achieve.

    2. "Democrats will correctly allege the provision in the Virginia Constitution is unconstitutional under the Constitution of the USA...."

      If that were correct, the Commonwealth's right-to-work statute would have been set aside for the same reason.

  2. Although the proponents of the meals tax are pitching it as a means of "reducing reliance on property taxes" I doubt if anyone who considered this measure, including its supporters, actually believe that claim. The meals tax is a straightforward tax hike that will not inhibit the rate of property tax increases. Vote no.


  4. Just wait for the next trick, Admissions tax! Going to a movie pay an admissions tax, just a matter of time.

    1. You're absolutely right. The BOS could fund its budget on the backs of property owners as long as property values kept rebounding. That finally ended this year, but the incessant clamor for more spending hasn't. There's a fairly flush lobby in Fairfax that's decided to take spending on education and other projects to astronomic levels. They've already convinced a number of BOS members to support this. So, as you say, the meals tax is just another in what will become a series of increasingly confiscatory taxes. The difference, however, is that taxpayers can, for once, defeat this tax. So, vote no.

    2. to be fair, the cost of keeping our schools staffed with competent individuals and up to date resources does not get cheaper over time. The materials and resources our kids need to excel in the market cost more money every year, and if we want the best for our future we need to invest in it now. Penny pinching in education and transportation projects will cost us far more in the long run, than investing wisely now.

    3. Fairfax taxpayers have been more than generous in funding the schools. Over half the County's enormous budget is dedicated to that purpose. The problem is that, in recent years, the County's tax base hasn't expanded enough to accommodate the school board's budget demands. State and federal funding have diminished, office vacancies are high and corporations haven't been moving into to the County like they once did. That leaves residents with the obligation of paying more and more of the County's expenses from their personal income. I suspect that some residents are under the impression that residents can keep footing the bill in this manner forever. However, that's an illusion only the affluent can foster. The bottom line here is that a meals tax won't impact the County's budget unless the BOS and school board commit to reducing spending. At least until new sources of revenue emerge. Unless that happens, the proceeds of the meals tax will be reduced to a line item in the budget and the school tax advocates will be right back looking for even more tax money.

      School tax advocates like to pretend that students will not receive a quality education unless massive amounts of new funding are added to the school budget. However, their idea of a quality education is neither realistic nor attainable outside of a prep school setting. There's little doubt that students will continue to be well educated at current funding levels. There's also little doubt that passing a meals tax will not impact the rise in real estate taxes. Vote no.

    4. To be fair, we could enforce occupancy code and the immigrant laws and ease many of the expenses.

      We also need a school board who doesn't waste our school funds pursuing their own political agenda. Sandy Evans is spending school money to advance her personal agenda to rename JEB Stuart High School. She surveyed the community in 2015 and got a NO name change response. She didn't like the results so, she tried getting the SB to pass a resolution to rename the school, but the community objected. She abandoned the resolution and attempted to get the SB to pass a motion to rename the school. The SB wouldn't do it. Instead, they passed a motion to "consider" whether or not to rename the school. Unhappy with this, Evans is now spending more money to hire a facilitator to create an Ad Hoc Committee to drive her agenda home.

      JEB Stuart High School has many needs and Evans should be ashamed to hold her personal political agenda above the needs of our students.

      I am not inclined to give Evans and her cronies anymore more to waste on their political agendas. No meal tax.

  5. No to Trump. No to meals tax.

    1. Half on on the meals tax

    2. OMG, the date on your comment is 10/12. So you already knew Trump is a groping enthusiast (his words, not mine). Seriously, what WILL it take for you to abandon him? If he beats up a room full of puppies?

  6. If FCPS is going to continually waste money like spending $20,000 on an independent facilitator to lead the Stuart name change effort that the majority of people do not want and that won't help the education of one student, then I am going to have a hard time giving them more money. I am voting NO.

    1. Most of FCPS' budget is pay and benefits for employees. They do need cut their consultant budget down, but any budget shortfall tray FCPS faces is due to FCPS employees wanting competitive pay and benefits.

  7. "Region's leaders split over 1-cent regional sales tax to pay for Metro."

    Welcome to what could add up to Fairfax's de facto 11% meals tax. Vote no.

  8. Vote no on the meals tax! Don't worry, they'll find other ways to squeeze extra taxes out of us to satisfy the ever growing school budget shortfalls...