West Virginians to Decide on 4 Constitutional Amendments

November 5, 2022

News Release | AP

FILE - Members of the public watch the start of a West Virginia Senate hearing to discuss an abortion bill on July 29, 2022, at the state Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia lawmakers are asking voters in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, election to give them more power to regulate public education policy and certain taxes while prohibiting state Supreme Court intervention in the Legislature's impeachment trials. (AP Photo)


CHARLESTON, WV - West Virginia lawmakers are asking voters to give them more power to regulate public education policy and certain taxes while prohibiting state Supreme Court intervention in the Legislature’s impeachment trials.


Another proposed constitutional amendment would allow churches to incorporate.

The four measures on Tuesday’s general election ballot are the most since there were six amendments on the ballot in 1986.


Here is a look at each amendment:


AMENDMENT 1: THE JUDICIARY’S ROLE IN IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS

In 2018, five acting justices on the state Supreme Court derailed the impeachment trials of several sitting Supreme Court justices accused of corruption, saying the trials would violate the state constitution’s separation of powers clause. A year later the U.S. Supreme Court left the decision in place.


West Virginia House lawmakers had impeached the justices over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty.


The proposed amendment would clarify that the state courts have no authority or jurisdiction to interfere with House or Senate impeachment proceedings and can’t review any judgment rendered by the Senate, where impeachment trials are held.


Judicial elections in West Virginia became nonpartisan in 2016, but the court’s impeachment scandal stirred political attacks. Some Democrats argued the court’s shakeup was a power grab by the Republican-dominated Legislature.


The Legislature took control of the state judiciary’s budget after voters approved a ballot measure in 2018.


AMENDMENT 2: TAX ELIMINATION

Lawmakers would have the authority to eliminate state business and inventory taxes along with the state’s personal property vehicle tax under this heavily debated proposal.

Proponents say eliminating the business and inventory tax could attract new jobs to the state and give existing businesses the incentive to expand.


Republican Gov. Jim Justice opposes the amendment, saying it could strain the finances of schools, cities and counties that rely on property taxes, give companies large tax breaks and force counties and other entities “to have to come to Charleston to beg for your funding.”

Justice has said he will propose a plan to eliminate the personal property tax on vehicles.

According to WalletHub, 23 states and the District of Columbia have no personal property tax on vehicles.


AMENDMENT 3: CHURCH INCORPORATION

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, West Virginia is the only state whose constitution does not currently allow churches or religious organizations to incorporate. The proposed amendment would give them that option.


The current law was borrowed from Virginia when West Virginia became a state in 1863. The law was deemed unenforceable after a federal court struck down as unconstitutional the denial of an entity’s ability to incorporate based upon its religious status.


Leading state lawmakers consider the amendment a technical cleanup of the constitution to show that religious organizations do have the right to become corporate entities. It would protect individuals from liability if legal action is brought against an incorporated church.


AMENDMENT 4: BOARD OF EDUCATION OVERSIGHT

The state Board of Education currently is the only government agency exempt from submitting rules and regulations to the Legislature for final approval. The proposed amendment would remove that exemption.


The board is appointed by the governor and its members come from different parts of the state. GOP lawmakers say people making decisions about schools should be accountable to voters.


But Dale Lee, the head of the state’s largest public educators’ union, said the amendment would force the public school system to conform to lawmakers’ own agendas.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Amy Grady, a public school teacher, said she hopes putting the board of education under legislative control would encourage better communication.