The crush and pace of the Virginia General Assembly creates a dilemma: We cover a lot of ground and witness a lot of things, good and bad, almost all nearly impossible to relate. We do our best, but we hear it all the time from supporters who come to committee meetings: You really can't believe it until you see if for yourself (at least we have video now). A lot of stuff sits in the file because we're forced to move on to other topics: Such is the pace of 2,600 bills in 60 days. Don't blog something one day, it's old news the next. After all, our first priority is working on legislation. However, several days ago, HB 570 was before the Senate Finance Committee. It preceded this infamous bill hearing (you must see this if you haven't; click here). This bill, patroned by Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach) would level the playing field when property owners appeal their often over assessed homes in order to reduce their already overwhelming tax burdens. Besides, if the government has a good case, it will still win. A no-brainer, right? Not!
Currently, and the way it will now remain for at least another year, the homeowner is the equivalent to guilty until proven innocent, and low-income people can’t even afford to hire an appraiser and other expenses required to overcome the burden of proof. (That's why advocates for low-income families joined us in supporting the bill.) Tellingly, the bill’s defeat was heavily targeted by a plethora of local governments and associated organizations whose goal is to further government’s prosperity and not that of the family or individual. One witness favoring the bill exposed their intentions by asking if they would be against this bill would help them overcome an unfair burden against the homeowner.
Hypocritically, in criticizing the bill, ultra liberal Senator Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31, Arlington) said that the jurisdictions she represents receive a disproportionate amount of local tax revenue from commercial properties and the bill did not exempt those buildings from the proposed new appeal process. When Delegate Iaquinto said he agreed and would accept that as a friendly amendment, she shot back, “I’m not going to offer that!” More hypocrisy was exposed when Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) offered a friendly amendment to rectify another complaint. Another ally was Senator William Wampler (R-40, Bristol), who made procedural motions to advance the bill. Yet, the bill still went down on a straight party line vote, 9-5, with Senator Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk) absent from the vote.
But, no need for me to try to capture the ignominy. See it for yourself. The entire debate is below in two parts.
Delegate Iaquinto makes a persuasive, commonsense case on behalf of home owners . . .
then the forces of big government preach government prosperity at the expense of individuals and families. So much for government guaranteeing individual rights and a fair day in court.