Virginians on Tuesday will vote on two proposed state constitutional amendments.

One would put provisions of Virginia’s right-to-work law into the constitution. The other is meant to aid the families of first responders killed in the line of duty by allowing localities to exempt a surviving spouse’s real property from taxation.

Virginia’s right-to-work law says participation in a union may not be a condition for employment in the state.

Supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment say the right-to-work provision is a key factor in maintaining a strong business climate in the state. Opponents term it an anti-union measure.

Backers say embedding the provision in the constitution would make it harder for a future General Assembly to undo. Opponents say it does not belong in the constitution.

“If you believe that people should have the freedom to take a job without being required to join a union to get or keep their job, then you want to vote YES on Question 1,” said Nicole Riley, Virginia state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

“People should be able to choose whether they want to join a union. This constitutional amendment will not change anything with the current process on how unions can organize. This amendment will future-proof Virginia’s status as a pro-business state against any elected officials in the future who might want to change our status as a right-to-work state.”

The Virginia AFL-CIO opposes the amendment “for a whole slew of reasons but most importantly because it has nothing to do with rights,” said Gina Maglionico, the organization’s communications director. “By design, a constitution is meant to protect the rights of citizens, not stifle them,” she said.

“Right-to-work laws are something of a misnomer. They do not guarantee anyone the right to have a job, nor do they guarantee any other workers’ rights. Federal law ensures that no one be forced to join a union—not Virginia’s right-to-work statute.”

The proposed amendment “is unnecessary and a waste of time,” she said. “Virginia has had a right-to-work law for nearly 70 years. Amendment 1 does not change that law, but it proves that legislators don’t trust voters or future elected officials to make their own decisions about what’s best for the commonwealth.”

The other proposed amendment would authorize the General Assembly to enact a law that would let a locality exempt from taxation the real property of the living spouse of any law enforcement officer, firefighter, search-and-rescue personnel member, or emergency medical services personnel member killed in the line of duty.

The exemption from taxation would apply to the surviving spouse’s principal place of residence. It would cease if the surviving spouse remarries.

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Andrew Cain writes for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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