By Matt Kaminer

Virginians split their votes on two proposed Constitutional Amendments Tuesday. The proposed “right to work” amendment failed, while an amendment to benefit surviving spouses of first responders passed.

The right to work amendment, known as Amendment One, would have added a section to the Virginia Constitution banning union membership as a condition of employment.

While Virginia has a state statute that already prohibits this practice, which took effect in 1947, a state constitutional provision could have discouraged future General Assemblies from changing the law.

The proposal was defeated with a 53.6 percent vote against and nearly 2 million votes with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Rockbridge County voters defeated the amendment with a vote of 54.7 percent and 5,535 votes. Lexington also voted “no” with 56.6 percent or 1,320 votes. The vote was tighter in Buena Vista, with just 51 percent opposing. The measure lost there by only 44 votes, 1,149 to 1,105.

Supporters of Amendment One contended that Virginia lawmakers could disregard the right to work
statute if it were not added to the state constitution.

However, opponents argued that there had been no challenges to that law in its near 70-year history.

Amendment One drew support from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and a strong opposition from the state AFL-CIO. Virginia is one of 26 states with a right to work law, but just eight of those states also have a constitutional right to work provision.

The defeat of Amendment One is the first failed state constitutional amendment proposal since 1998.

Voters affirmed an amendment that will let local governments exempt from property tax the surviving spouses of first responders. These include law enforcement officers, firefighters, search and rescue personnel members or emergency medical services personnel member killed in the line of duty.

The amendment passed with 79.6 percent of the vote, including 7,825 votes, or 75.7 percent, from Rockbridge County. In Lexington, it passed with 1,608 votes or 68.4 percent.  In Buena Vista, 74 percent of the voters supported the measure.

The exemption would apply only to the surviving spouse’s primary place of residence, and the recipient would lose the exemption is he or she remarries.

The revision will expand upon a 2014 amendment to Article X that exempted from taxation the property of a spouse of any member of the United States Armed Forces killed in the line of duty. Over 87 percent of voters, including 5,548 from Rockbridge County, voted in favor of that amendment.

This year marks the third consecutive state Election Day ballot that included at least one constitutional amendment proposal. Additionally, this year’s ballot is the first since 2012 and the 10th since 1994 to include more than one proposal.

The last year an amendment did not pass was in 1998, when two proposals failed by less than 15 percent in the lowest voter turnout for constitutional amendments in over a decade.No results from Buena Vista were available late Tuesday.


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