Taking a moment during lunch to check in over at Too Conservative I saw that the lead post was regarding the VA Supreme Court ruling that the NVTA is unconstitutional. Poster Loudoun Insider didn’t have details and was on his way out when he heard, so I went and checked over at WTOP News and there it was:
A ruling by Virginia’s Supreme Court will have a direct effect on your wallet and your commute.
The state’s highest court ruled that the regional authority created by the General Assembly to levy taxes for Northern Virginia transportation projects is unconstitutional.
In a unanimous opinion, the court said legislators improperly delegated taxing powers to the unelected members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
The decision affects seven regional taxes and fees that residents started paying Jan. 1. Those taxes and fees include new taxes on home sales, car rentals and repairs and hotel-room stays, as well as $10 safety-inspection fee and a $10 regional vehicle-registration fee.&nbsp;
This is pretty serious for the folks who thought this was a good idea. There has already been about $300 million in bonds offered that were to be financed by these taxes.
At issue was the fact that the NVTA would be comprised of unelected members and yet they would have the power to levy taxes. This was the issue many Virginians had with the whole idea and the constitutionality of it was challenged by people like Delegate Bob Marshall. The Court agreed – unanimously, I might add – overturning the decision of a lower court in Arlington County.
Democrat Jim Moran is pretty ticked off, from the sound of it. If the quotes in the story are accurate, Congressman Moran needs a refresher course on our system of government. Note his comments:
Moran calls the decision “inexcusable” on the part of the court.
“Under the separation of powers, the legislative branch makes the law, and the judiciary decides whether the executive branch is acting consistent with that law. The judiciary doesn’t make its own law. Once the legislature acts — that is the law — and there was no question when they acted if this was truly constitutional. The Attorney General had reviewed it and recognized it as consistent with the constitution.”
Moran’s an idiot if this is honestly his understanding of it. He talks as if the legislature snaps its fingers and everyone else just has to start tap-dancing. Did he miss the notion that the Governor – the head of the executive branch – has to actually sign a law passed by the legislature? So, it’s not a matter of “[o]nce the legislature acts — that is the law” to begin with. As for there being no question that it was constitutional, may I ask who made that determination? The Attorney General is not the final arbiter of whether something is constitutional. The Supreme Court is and they followed the process by which that determination is made. Moran’s just throwing a congressional temper-tantrum that a group of people vetted and approved to carry out the task of saying whether something is constitutional all came to the conclusion that this piece of legislation was not, and he doesn’t like that. Well, tough noogies, Mr. Congressman. Our system of government says you don’t get to make that call. This legislation was an attempt to end run the constitutional process and it got caught trying. The General Assembly now needs to go back and pass a law that passes constitutional muster or they need to propose a change to the constitution to permit the NVTA to be the way they envisioned.
This doesn’t fix the funding issue but we can’t just fall into doing whatever the quickest fix for the problem is. It’s got to be legal and, here in Virginia, this approach doesn’t qualify.