Below The Beltway

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Is The NVTA Unconstitutional ?

That’s certainly what Delegate Bob Marshall thinks:

As Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, points out, the Virginia Constitution requires approval of any such regional entities “by a majority vote of the qualified voters thereon in each county and city which is to participate in the regional government. …” And as Marshall noted in a July 2 letter to Fairfax County Board Chairman (and NVTA member) Gerry Connolly, this never happened. Voters were never consulted about the creation of NVTA, and when they were finally asked in a 2002 referendum whether the new regional body could raise the sales tax by half a cent, a large majority answered: “No!”

Nine of NVTA’s 14 voting members are locally elected officials, but none was ever elected to the regional board itself, which means they are not directly accountable to voters outside their own jurisdictions. The five appointed members are not accountable to the public at all. The state Constitution prevents such a “no taxation without representation” predicament by giving the General Assembly the sole power to raise taxes; even some strictly local tax hikes have to be approved in Richmond first.

Since the legislature handed off this basic responsibility to a constitutionally dubious regional body when it passed the transportation bill earlier this year, the NVTA’s taxing authority will initially be challenged in court. Indeed, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has already voted to do just that. Meanwhile, NVTA is planning a highly unusual pre-emptive strike, hoping to find a sympathetic judge to validate its questionable taxing powers before a lawsuit can be filed.

Which would explain why they filed in Arlington.

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