Delegate Sal Iaquinto

Quote/Moment Of The Day: First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Lawyers

Today, as a long floor session was winding down, the House took up SB 1159, a bill relating to admission to the Virginia Bar. Among those granting an exception, along with out of state lawyers, were to be law professors. Up rose Delegate Dave Albo (R-42, Fairfax), chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, to speak to the bill:

I know no one cares about this bill. ... (But) if law professors are so smart, they can take the Bar exam and do what every other lawyer has to do to practice law in Virginia!

He received cynical cheers of encouragement from, presumably, the non-lawyers in the chamber. But up rose Delegate Jennifer McClellen (D-71, Richmond) to inform him that part of the bill had been struck. Speaker Bill Howell spoke for Albo with a Never mind! But it didn't end there.

Delegate Bobby Orrock (R-54, Caroline) then rose to ask what was left in the bill and why was it necessary if there was no new legislative language remaining. That prompted Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach) to pop up to point out the bulk of the bill was much more than the part that was struck, prompting another never mind moment from Delegate Orrock. But it didn't end there.

More delegates arose, including Lionell Spruill (D-77, Chesapeake) and Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) to ask questions and attempt to explain, leaving Delegate Iaquinto slightly exasperated, even bandying about some Latin (pro hoc vice) to the mock cheers of admiration. Still, after several minutes, with no one sure what was in the bill, what it would do or if it was necessary, there were more questions. There was discussion of sending it back to the Courts of Justice Committee, which would kill it.

But it didn't end there . . . because Delegate Albo, who started it all off, agreed to have it passed by for the day so all could have the evening to see if there was any there, there. So it goes. Only in Virginia. Perhaps, as Shakespeare wrote, the only thing that needs killing is the lawyers.

The BPOL Tax: A Bicentennial Only Local Governments Could Celebrate

The local governments are at it again. Every year during session they use the tax dollars of those they represent — us! — to lobby directly against our interests. The best example is their years-long opposition to property rights protections, at which they finally failed this session. (By the way, if they claim to represent their residents, why are they afraid of a vote by those same people to ratify or reject property rights?) Now, they are trying to scuttle HB 10, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Fredericksburg), which would give a modest — and fair — amount of tax relief to small and family owned businesses by prohibiting localities from increasing their BPOL Tax for four years above what it is during the 2011 license year. But that doesn't sit well with the local government lobby, which has an unquenchable thirst for our hard-earned tax dollars.

The BPOL Tax is one of the least fair of all taxes because it taxes the gross receipts on a business, not its profits. For example, a business that brings in receipts of $500,000 but loses $100,000 gets taxed on the $500,000! This kills small and family owned businesses and stifles job creation.

While local governments talk about their "pain" who speaks for the hardships facing small businesses and individuals? It's almost funny how government always asks us to sacrifice but itself never sacrifices anything —  especially local governments who see themselves as their own entity, rather than stewards of their communities' interests, and are in the game to preserve their interests and power, not unlike any other special interest or industry.

HB 10 passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority (88-12) early in session, but only now is getting its day in the Senate, where it will be heard tomorrow morning in the Finance Committee. One of the many fun things devoid of an already dour session this year is a little-bill- that-could. You hear of them every year, a bill that comes out of nowhere and does some good things. Maybe HB 10 is it.

Last year, Delegates Cole and Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach) were successful in passing some helpful changes to the inherently unfair BPOL Tax, which is "celebrating" its bicentennial year this year — originally levied to pay for the War of 1812Unlike this modest bill, which has a sunset provision, the BPOL Tax was never discontinued when it accomplished its goal 200 years ago — a never-ending tax of dreams for the Big Government types. It's time for a little more for fairness and suppression of the Big Government appetite.

Not only is the BPOL Tax bad policy, it is particularly heinous during a slow economy. The bill also gives localities the option to impose the BPOL Tax on the Virginia taxable income of a corporation, the net income of a sole proprietorship, and the net income of a pass-through entity, which simply is the right and just way to tax businesses.

With so much going on this session, the little-bills-that-could get lost in the pack. But HB 10 can make an impact for tax fairness, job growth and small government with a victory tomorrow in Senate Finance. While local governments fight for themselves, we can fight back.

Please contact senators on the Senate Finance Committee (click here) and urge them to vote for HB 10 tomorrow!

General Assembly Week In Review: Several Victories, Much Craziness (And More To Come)

Nothing adequately can explain the pace of the General Assembly. Especially the short session. More goes on that we can — and would love to — report. It is no exaggeration to say that we could employ an entire news team to cover all that we see (and hear). Lobbying and blogging is a killer. But here's a week in review of some significant legislation.  We had several legislative victories this week, including five resolutions to amend the Virginia Constitution this morning in the House Privileges and Elections Committee:

HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), is a religious liberty amendment that protects public prayer. It passed by a 14-7 vote after some committee liberals raised several objections.

Also regarding religious liberty, HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Loudon), which prohibits the state from blocking tuition loans and grants to students seeking theological education for the purposes of becoming a military chaplain. It passed with only three dissenting votes. This bill was debated thoroughly in sub-committee earlier in the week. The state already pays the salary of chaplains and Delegate Greason's amendment would allow for tuition assistance as well.

Three limited government resolutions also passed. HJ 539 requires a super majority vote by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to increase state and local taxes; and HJ 540 limits increased spending by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to the previous year's level plus the percentage increase in population and inflation. Both are patroned Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania). HJ 539 survived a procedural vote to kill it, and then was reported by an 13-8 vote, while HJ 540 passed by a 11-9 vote. 

Finally, this morning, after extensive debate, HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), the House Majority Whip, passed by a 14-7 vote.  This resolution precludes tax and fee increases in the state budget. Any revenue increase, including the termination of tax credits, would have to be introduced as a separate bill for an up or down vote. In recent years, governors and lawmakers have buried such increases within billions of dollars of spending in the budget. Even when promulgated, many lawmakers had no choice but to vote for such budgets or else precipitate a government shutdown.

The proposed constitutional amendments to protect property rights were carried over and will be heard a week from today. Yesterday, there was good news on taxes: The House passed by a 94-5 vote HB 1437, also patroned by Delegate Cole, which would allow localities the option of ending the BPOL tax. This tax, which was started 199 years ago to fund the War of 1812, is a job killer and well passed its own life expectancy. The same day, by a 97-2 vote, the House approved HB 1587, patroned by Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), which would exempt start-up businesses from the BPOL tax for two years.

Earlier this week, the House of Delegates passed another Family Foundation priority piece of legislation:  HJ 542, The Repeal Amendment. Patroned by Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-67, Chantilly), it would repeal any federal law if two-thirds of the states agree. The bill was hotly debated in both committee and on the floor of the House of Delegates, with opponents making subtle and not so subtle accusations of racism toward supporters.

Next week is the final week before "Crossover," and with many bills still left to be debated, almost anything imaginable will happen. Even some unimaginable.

More Can't Miss Video: Senate Finance Committee Empowers Local Government Over Taxpayers!

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.

Your Local Assessor As The IRS: Virginia's Unfair Assessment Appeal Is Government's Advantage Over Taxpayer (As Usual)

One of the biggest aggravations — and financial hardships — local governments place on taxpaying families and individuals is the assessments on their houses. Not only are local property tax rates often much too high, the assessments are as well, resulting in a double infliction of financial pain. Of course, by law, localities must allow homeowners an appeals process if a homeowner thinks the assessment is too high. But, as usual in Virginia, we have laws to remedy a problem that are nothing more than window dressing, so that legislators can say, "We have a law," (and plaster it all over campaign brochures). In fact, it's said Virginia has laws to prevent solutions (such as our restrictive charter school law).

Virginia’s assessment appeals process is such a case and is counterproductive to a fair appeal. It’s almost like an IRS appeal where you are guilty until proven innocent. In the case of an assessment appeal, you must prove the assessor wrong — he or she has no burden to prove your property is valued at fair market value. It is such a stacked system that most aggrieved homeowners don’t even attempt to appeal and end up paying more than they should of their hard-earned income in local property taxes.

However, now there's a chance to reform this overly slanted playing field in favor of the government to a level playing field for all homeowners. Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach) is patroning HB 570. It passed the House 86-13 and will be voted on in the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday.

Please contact members of the committee (click here) and ask them to report this bill to the floor so that taxpayers, homeowners and families finally can receive a bit of tax fairness.

According to fiscal impact statement attached to HB 570 (and these statements normally sink a bill, so it's nice to have one that offers clarity on the subject) the bill would . . .

shift the burden of proof from the taxpayer to the assessor when the taxpayer appeals the assessment of real property to a Board of Equalization or to a circuit court, and would remove the presumption that the assessor’s valuation of real property is correct. The assessor would have the burden of proving that the property in question is valued at its fair market value or that the assessment is uniform in its application, or that the assessment is otherwise valid or legal.

In addition, currently, in all such cases, the taxpayer has the burden of proving that the property in question is valued at more than its fair market value — and is . . .

required to produce substantial evidence that the valuation determined by the assessor is erroneous and was not arrived at in accordance with generally accepted appraisal practice in order to receive relief.

Perhaps there is nothing in Virginia more contrary to American due process than our process to appeal unjust property assessments — assessments localities use to milk its residents for their unquenchable thirst for more tax revenue. Wednesday may be the day Virginia takes a big step toward reversing that and not just "having a law" for the sake of having a law, but having a law that puts its citizens first.

Property Rights Win Big In House Sub-Committee Tonight!

A couple of hours ago, Virginia property owners won a big victory over government bureaucrats when the House Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee voted unanimously to report a bill to the full committee that would allow Virginians whose property is taken by eminent domain to present to juries a case for just compensation that would include property no longer accessible because of the taking. If the bill becomes law, a property owner who had 25 yards taken, but which rendered another 50 yards unusable, could then present that evidence to a jury and seek compensation for the entire 75 yards, rather than just the 25 yards. Although the vote was unanimous on HB 652, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville), lobbyists representing taxpayer funded government entities such as VDOT and local governments (Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League) tried to take it to their bosses, the taxpayers, as they do every year. However, after closely considering an amendment to water down the bill, property rights members of the committee, such as Delegates Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond) and sub-committee Chairman Clay Athey (R-18, Front Royal), brought "the temperature of the committee" (a phrase used a lot around here) back to "hot" for the taxpayers. 

The bill now goes to the full committee on Friday! Please contact members of the House Courts of Justice Committee (click here) and ask them to report the bill to the House floor.