Cuccinelli: Part of transportation bill is unconstitutional

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says part of the state’s landmark transportation legislation compromise, which includes Medicaid expansion, is unconstitutional.

The two opinions issued Friday came after inquiries from Republican Del. Bob Marshall, a vocal opponent of additional taxes and government expansion.

The General Assembly passed the legislation in late February during the final hours of its  session.

Part of the legislation, which passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, would increase the state sales tax from 5 percent to a new rate of 5.3 percent, a 3.5 percent wholesale gas tax and a $100 alternative fuel fee for hybrid vehicle owners.

Cuccinelli said the part of the the bill that adds local sales tax violates the state’s constitution. However, he writes that could have been avoided by lawmakers.

“I do not conclude that the General Assembly cannot address the problem, but rather, only that constitutional means must be employed. For example, the General Assembly could…  grant governing bodies of localities the power to impose the local taxes that the General Assembly cannot,” Cuccinelli wrote.

The next issue involves Gov. McDonnell’s assurance that the Commonwealth would give the green light to Medicaid expansion in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, as long as a number of reforms were implemented.

The attorney general said the state’s constitution was violated when the General Assembly created a commission of 10 of lawmakers to oversee McDonnell’s required reforms. That, Cuccinelli, said is a no-no, since the body is not allowed to delegate its powers.

“It is further my opinion that the General Assembly may not delegate final legislative authority regarding budgetary or other matters to a committee composed of a subset of the members of the General Assembly,” Cuccinelli wrote.

However, the package can still be amended by the General Assembly since Gov. McDonnell has yet to sign the legislation.