The Constitution? We Don’t Need No Stinking Constitution

A group of conservative activists, represented by Richmond attorney Patrick McSweeney has filed a sweeping legal challenge to the Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform act of 2007. As the Virginian-Pilot’s Christina Nuckols sums up the initiative: “The lawsuit seeks to disable the legislation by riddling it with 13 separate state and federal constitutional objections.”

“As far as I can tell, no one gave any thoughtful analysis to the constitutional questions as this bill went through the process,” McSweeney told the Virginian-Pilot. “There’s a lot of fault to go around.”

In 13 counts, the lawsuit alleges that major provisions of the act, which raises nearly $1 billion a year in new transportation revenues, violate either the U.S. or Virginia constitutions. Among the claims, as reported by

-Regional transportation authorities in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads with the power to levy taxes breach the state Constitution because their members are not directly elected by voters;

-“Impact fees” on people who develop their land in those regions constitute an unconstitutional governmental taking of property.

-$3 billion in long-term borrowing for roads without statewide voter approval violates the state Constitution.

-The civil remedial fees, already under court challenge, violate federal and state protections against double jeopardy, equal protection under the law and state constitutional safeguards against excessive fines.

-The multifaceted law, directing numerous ways revenues are raised and spent statewide and regionally, violates the state Constitution’s “one-object” mandate that bills be confined to a single purpose.

I’m no legal scholar, but I think there’s merit to four out of the five challenges listed above. The only one I would question is the objection to the impact fees — impact fees have passed constitutional muster elsewhere, what’s so different about these? Meanwhile, abuser fees have already encountered a major setback in Henrico County courts. It will be interesting to see how far these legal challenges go.

Update: Attorney General Bob McDonnell, Gov. Tim Kaine, and House Speaker Bill Howell have filed a legal brief defending the constitionality of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


6 responses to “The Constitution? We Don’t Need No Stinking Constitution”

  1. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Jim Bacon –

    It now appears the so-called
    compromise transportation package
    approved by the 2007 GA session
    with support by the Governor that
    resorted to various new revenue measures other than a simple hike
    in the gas or sales tax to meet
    our transportation system’s needs is under attack.

    The package was a political deal
    designed to get the GOP a pass on
    the transportation issue in this
    fall’s elections for all 140 GA

    Now the package will be the major
    issue in many races around the state and the intent of those who
    created this package in private
    meetings in an upscale hotel in
    downtown Richmond seems to have not

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    So wait a second– “anti-tax conservative activists” are suing to overturn a bill that is the direct result of the refusal of “anti-tax conservative activists” to raise needed revenue by actually raising taxes, rather than raising funds with phony stunts? Amazing. Talk about chasing your own tail.

  3. Groveton Avatar

    Anon 9:25 AM – That’s a very astute observation. It seems that being a “conservative” in Virginia really means having no core beliefs.

    Along those lines – have you noticed that the “conservatives” in Virginia are firmly behind law and order when it comes to enforcing existing immigration laws. However, those same law and order advocates cheer loudly when Front Royal says it won’t enforce the abuser fee laws.

    Kind of makes me wonder whether this whole conservative bashing of the illegal aliens is a question of conviction or complexion.

    If the conservatives wnat to turn the very clear momentum of the Democratic Party in Virginia they need a stable set of values, a leader who can put voice to those values and the credibility of living within the values instead of waffling from side to side on every issue.

    I personally believe there is considerable merit in many conservative positions. However, there is no merit in being a self interest group masquerading as a political philosophy.

  4. Groveton Avatar

    Interesting study of the economic impact of immigrants in Arkansas –

    Read the PDF Executive Summary “A Profile of Immigrants in Arkansas”.

    Conclusion is that immigrants (and their US born children) had a small but positive net impact on the economy of Arkansas.

    I am sure that these guys have an agenda (like everyone else) but they also seem to have some method to their conclusion.

    It would be nice to see this same kind of analysis about Virginia before the anit-immigrant rhetoric gets much louder.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    If it is true that the impact of immigrants in Arkansas is small but positive, it might be worthwile to comapre the two economies, and the place immigrants have in them.

    I suspect that the Arkansas economy is more rural and less high tech, and the effect of immigrant workers applies accordngly.

    In Virginia, we have many more high tech and educated immigrants, and the effect on Virginia economy might be far greater.


  6. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Ignoring the Constitutions of Virginia and the United States, setting up taxation without representation in the form of an all-appointed, unaccountable regional government controlled by the Hampton Roads Partnership (our local business cabal) is not required to have the state do their job and fund needed improvements to state highways.

    HB 3202 and traffic congestion have been used as a target of opportunity to set up a regional government that is not accountable to voters, nor, without the effort I have made, would have allowed citizens to address the new regional taxing authority. As it is, all I managed to do, by begging the two state Delegates appointed to the new regional taxing authority to help me, is to have citizens allowed to speak AFTER all business at the HRTA meeting had been conducted – and AFTER all decisions had been made without the benefit of any citizen input on each agenda item as it was being discussed.

    Folks, in addition, several members of the authority simply LEFT the July 18th meeting when citizens finally has the chance to “comment” on what had just happen, not to be a part of the decision-making process on their new all-appointed regional government.

    AFTER the first meeting of the new HRTA, the highly paid, taxpayer-funded, non-elected Executive Director (Art Collins) of the HRPDC added 12 non-elected government bureaucrats to the authority. He calls them “HRTA Chief Administrative Officers.” It’s the same non-elected scam he set up in the HRPDC and MPO. After the authority had spent nearly 4 hours going over the bylaws, not one word of this change had been discussed, nor was in mentioned in the new bylaws just adopted. A non-elected shill for the local business lobby simply changed the new authority in secret, and without the knowledge of members of the authority.

    Folks, HB 3202 clearly spells out WHO is to be a member of the new regional taxing authority – but Art Collins decided HE WOULD DECIDE who is on the new authority. Because he is untouchable, he chose to ignore HB 3202 and to set up the new taxing authority by ADDING as many unelected city bureaucrats to the authority as there are elected Mayors of Chairs! Are you getting this?

    This was done without notice to all of the members of the new authority – it was slipped in after the first meeting by Art Collins, the acting Executive Director.

    I was able to discover this, contact Del. Welch, and he called others on the authority, asked them if they knew anything about this. They said that they had no knowledge of this at all. At the second Regular Meeting of the new authority this past Friday (yesterday), Del. Welch asked the authority how this happened.

    Art Collins admitted he had done this then he tried to educate Delegate Welch WHY the General Assembly made a mistake and WHY the new authority should have more non-voting members added.

    Are you “getting” this?

    Del. Welch explained to Art Collins that it isn’t his place to decide WHO is appointed to this authority, it is the General Assembly that decides.

    Art was told to remove the new non-elected city employees from the authority roster.

    This is but one example that shows that objections to HB 3202 have far more to do with BAD GOVERNMENT then they have to do with the raising of taxes, tolls, and fees to pay for more transportation infrastructure.

    The local business lobby is using the need for road improvements to set up a puppet regional government. What is different this time (from the HRPDC and MPO), is that because of my lobbying efforts over the past 5 years, the General Assembly made sure that members of the General Assembly are members of the new regional authority.

    Art Collins and his 17 non-elected pals have been secretly running the show down here on the HRPDC and MPO. They take their marching orders from folks that take their marching orders from the Hampton Roads Partnership.

    When I mention “secretly” in the sentence above, I mean this literally. Art Collins and Jim Spore (Virginia Beach City Manager and a member of Art’s “Chief Administrative Officers) meet in secret to discuss matter that include HB 3202 and its 2002 predecessor, SB 668. They lock the doors and throw out the media. Art told the Daily Press reporter, as he locked the doors of the taxpayer funded “regional building” – he told them that he owned the building, he paid for it, and if they didn’t like it, they can sue him.

    This is the model of regional government being created in Virginia.

    Folks it is BAD GOVERNMENT.

    The price of good roads does not require us to be forced to accept bad government.

    I hope this helps you to better understand the motivation for the court challenges to HB 3202. Folks, HB 3202 actually states that Art Collins (the Executive Director of the HRPDC) will be the acting Executive Director of the HRTA, until the HRTA hires a replacement.

    And those of you that don’t live here wonder why so many of us that do live here are so outraged by HB 3202?

Leave a Reply