CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Voters in the Mountain State will take up two proposed amendments to the West Virginia Constitution during the 2018 November General Election.
Amendment No. 1, the proposed “No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment,” was the first to get approval from the Legislature during the 2018 Regular Legislative Session and is written as follows:
“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
In general, what’s expected to be Amendment No. 2, the proposed “Judicial Budget Oversight Amendment,” would shift judicial spending oversight to lawmakers.
Currently, the judiciary controls its own budget.
The proposed amendment making the change includes the following language:
“Providing that the total general revenue appropriations to the judiciary may be reduced in the budget bill, and setting forth the required procedures to be followed by the Legislature to enact any decrease in the total general revenue appropriations to the judiciary to an amount that is less than 85 percent of the amount of the total general revenue appropriations to the judiciary in the most recently enacted budget; providing that when requested by the Legislature, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals must appear and be heard and answer inquiries relative any budget bill; and conforming language relating to the introduction of the budget and matters that may be taken up during extended sessions to more recent amendments to the Constitution.”
Two-thirds of members of both the state Senate and state House of Delegates voted for the ballot additions via joint resolutions meeting the required thresholds for proposed Constitutional amendment votes.
“Once the joint resolution’s been passed, the Legislature submits the title and purpose to the ballot commissioners of each county by way of, basically, giving it to us, we certify it,” explained Donald Kersey, elections director and deputy legal counsel with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
“Once it’s official, the ballot commissioners in the counties are the ones that actually put that on the ballot.”
He said counties have plenty of time to meet established deadlines for the ballot additions before November.
As for vote counting, “It’ll propose very little burden on the county because it’s just a ‘for the amendment’ or ‘against the amendment’ determination,” he said.
A majority is required for ratification with take effect dates coming after certifications of the election results, according to Kersey.
Over the years, a number of proposed Constitutional amendments have made it on West Virginia’s ballots.
Most recently, voters in West Virginia altered the state Constitution with the Fall 2017 vote for the Road Bond Amendment.
In Nov. 2014, voters approved the West Virginia Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Amendment allowing the Boy Scouts of America to retain state tax-exempt status even while renting out the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County for events.
In Nov. 2012, a proposed amendment to end term limits for county sheriffs was rejected.
In 2002, two proposed amendments were ratified — the county and municipal option economic development amendment and the equalizing number of years of excess levies amendment.
In 1998, both the local option economic development amendment and the judicial reform amendment were rejected.
There have been election years when as many five Constitutional amendments have been proposed in West Virginia.
This year, Nov. 6 is Election Day. In West Virginia, the 2018 primary election is set for Tuesday, May 8.