Virginia House Bill 1890 (2009)

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Virginia House Bill 1890 (HB 1890), sponsored by delegate Bob Brink, increases the number of qualified voters in Virginia political subdivisions that must sign a petition to put a referendum on the ballot to create a housing authority.

Prior to HB 1890, 100 voters had to sign a petition to qualify housing-referendum petitions for the ballot. HB 1890 increased the number of signatures from 100 to "at least two percent of the qualified voters." HB 1890 also says that once a housing-authority referendum has been held in a given political subdivision, "no other referendum on the same question shall be held in the county, city, or town within five years of the date of the prior referendum."

HB 1890 was unanimously approved in both the Virginia State Senate (40-0) and the Virginia House of Delegates (98-0), and signed into law by state governor Tim Kaine on February 25, 2009.

Arlington County District Attorney Stephen MacIsaac used HB 1890 as the basis on an assertion in a 112-page legal brief that a housing referendum desired by a group of citizen advocates in the county should not go on the November 2009 ballot because their petition violates the provisions of HB 1890, both because they didn't get as many signatures as HB 1890 requires and because they had a similar referendum in the county (which failed by a margin of 2-1) in 2008.[1]

Supporters of the referendum say this is an unfair application of HB 1890 because new legislation in Virginia only goes into effect on July 1 with the start of Virginia's new fiscal year. Under the old version of the law, they needed 100 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. Under the new version, they would need signatures equalling 2% of approximately 140,000 registered voters, or roughly 2,800 signatures. A circuit court judge will decide the issue on June 30, 2009.[1]

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