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Arlington Judge Upholds Constitutionality Of NVTA

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but a Circuit Court Judge in Arlington has upheld the constitutionality of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority:

An Arlington County Circuit Court judge this morning upheld the constitutionality of a state law enacted this year enabling the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to raise taxes and issue bonds to finance as much as $300 million in regional highway and transit projects each year.

Circuit Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick ruled that nothing in the state or federal constitution blocks the General Assembly from setting up a regional “political subdivision” for the purpose of taxation. And the regional authority’s members are not required to be elected directly by the people, he ruled.

At issue is one component of sweeping legislation enacted by the legislature in February that funnels $1 billion annually to transportation projects across the commonwealth. Under the provisions of the legislation, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority — and another like it in Hampton Roads — will raise and distribute most of the money in their respective regions.

Today’s action does not end the legal battle over the transportation package. Lawyer Patrick M. McSweeney of Richmond, in court today to represent individuals who opposed the package, said he most certainly would appeal to the Supreme Court. Separately, McSweeney is representing many of the same individuals in a lawsuit filed in Richmond that addresses other aspects of the legislation. McSweeney also has a case before the state Supreme Court challenging the authority of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, with board members representing Virginia, Maryland and the District, to collect tolls in Virginia along the Dulles Toll Road.

I say that this isn’t surprising because a Circuit Court Judge in Arlington is, quite simply, unlikely to declare a major legislative initiative like the NVTA unconstitutional. The next step from here is the Supreme Court of Virginia, but given that body’s sometimes deferential view toward the legislature, I don’t think the opponents of the NVTA are likely to prevail.

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One Response to “Arlington Judge Upholds Constitutionality Of NVTA”

  1. Observer says:

    Any judge, anywhere, is unlikely to declare any legislative initiative, major or minor, unconstitutional. The same goes for an appellate court. Some may venture there, but very few do.

    The US and VA constitutions recognize separation of powers. Legislators legislate, judges apply the law. Laws arrive at the court cloaked with a presumption of validity. If they did not, judges (unelected) would feel unconstrained to overturn acts of the legislators (elected).

    That is a conservative philosophy.

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