Article VII, Virginia Constitution
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| Text of Section 1:
As used in this article (1) "county" means any existing county or any such unit hereafter created, (2) "city" means an independent incorporated community which became a city as provided by law before noon on the first day of July, nineteen hundred seventy-one, or which has within defined boundaries a population of 5,000 or more and which has become a city as provided by law, (3) "town" means any existing town or an incorporated community within one or more counties which became a town before noon, July one, nineteen hundred seventy-one, as provided by law or which has within defined boundaries a population of 1,000 or more and which has become a town as provided by law, (4) "regional government" means a unit of general government organized as provided by law within defined boundaries, as determined by the General Assembly, (5) "general law" means a law which on its effective date applies alike to all counties, cities, towns, or regional governments or to a reasonable classification thereof, and (6) "special act" means a law applicable to a county, city, town, or regional government and for enactment shall require an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly.
The General Assembly may increase by general law the population minima provided in this article for cities and towns. Any county which on the effective date of this Constitution had adopted an optional form of government pursuant to a valid statute that does not meet the general law requirements of this article may continue its form of government without regard to such general law requirements until it adopts a form of government provided in conformity with this article. In this article, whenever the General Assembly is authorized or required to act by general law, no special act for that purpose shall be valid unless this article so provides.
The amendment ratified November 7, 1972 and effective January 1, 1973—Added language to the definition of "city" in (2) to include those communities which became cities before July 1, 1971. Added language to the definition of "town" in (3) to include those communities which became "towns" before July 1, 1971.
| Text of Section 2:
Organization and Government
The General Assembly shall provide by general law for the organization, government, powers, change of boundaries, consolidation, and dissolution of counties, cities, towns, and regional governments. The General Assembly may also provide by general law optional plans of government for counties, cities, or towns to be effective if approved by a majority vote of the qualified voters voting on any such plan in any such county, city, or town.
The General Assembly may also provide by special act for the organization, government, and powers of any county, city, town, or regional government, including such powers of legislation, taxation, and assessment as the General Assembly may determine, but no such special act shall be adopted which provides for the extension or contraction of boundaries of any county, city, or town.
Every law providing for the organization of a regional government shall, in addition to any other requirements imposed by the General Assembly, require the approval of the organization of the regional government by a majority vote of the qualified voters voting thereon in each county and city which is to participate in the regional government and of the voters voting thereon in a part of a county or city where only the part is to participate.
| Text of Section 3:
The General Assembly may provide by general law or special act that any county, city, town, or other unit of government may exercise any of its powers or perform any of its functions and may participate in the financing thereof jointly or in cooperation with the Commonwealth or any other unit of government within or without the Commonwealth. The General Assembly may provide by general law or special act for transfer to or sharing with a regional government of any services, functions, and related facilities of any county, city, town, or other unit of government within the boundaries of such regional government.
| Text of Section 4:
County and City Officers
There shall be elected by the qualified voters of each county and city a treasurer, a sheriff, an attorney for the Commonwealth, a clerk, who shall be clerk of the court in the office of which deeds are recorded, and a commissioner of revenue. The duties and compensation of such officers shall be prescribed by general law or special act.
Regular elections for such officers shall be held on Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Such officers shall take office on the first day of the following January unless otherwise provided by law and shall hold their respective offices for the term of four years, except that the clerk shall hold office for eight years.
The General Assembly may provide for county or city officers or methods of their selection, including permission for two or more units of government to share the officers required by this section, without regard to the provisions of this section, either (1) by general law to become effective in any county or city when submitted to the qualified voters thereof in an election held for such purpose and approved by a majority of those voting thereon in each such county or city, or (2) by special act upon the request, made after such an election, of each county or city affected. No such law shall reduce the term of any person holding an office at the time the election is held. A county or city not required to have or to elect such officers prior to the effective date of this Constitution shall not be so required by this section.
The General Assembly may provide by general law or special act for additional officers and for the terms of their office.
| Text of Section 5:
County, City, and Town Governing Bodies
The governing body of each county, city, or town shall be elected by the qualified voters of such county, city, or town in the manner provided by law.
If the members are elected by district, the district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district. When members are so elected by district, the governing body of any county, city, or town may, in a manner provided by law, increase or diminish the number, and change the boundaries, of districts, and shall in 1971 and every ten years thereafter, and also whenever the boundaries of such districts are changed, reapportion the representation in the governing body among the districts in a manner provided by law. Whenever the governing body of any such unit shall fail to perform the duties so prescribed in the manner herein directed, a suit shall lie on behalf of any citizen thereof to compel performance by the governing body.
Unless otherwise provided by law, the governing body of each city or town shall be elected on the second Tuesday in June and take office on the first day of the following September. Unless otherwise provided by law, the governing body of each county shall be elected on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November and take office on the first day of the following January.
| Text of Section 6:
Unless two or more units exercise functions jointly as authorized in Sections 3 and 4, no person shall at the same time hold more than one office mentioned in this article. No member of a governing body shall be eligible, during the term of office for which he was elected or appointed, to hold any office filled by the governing body by election or appointment, except that a member of a governing body may be named a member of such other boards, commissions, and bodies as may be permitted by general law and except that a member of a governing body may be elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of mayor or board chairman if permitted by general law or special act.
The amendment ratified November 6, 1984 and effective January 1, 1985—After "as may be permitted by general law", added "and except that a member of a governing body may be elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of mayor or board chairman if permitted by general law or special act".
| Text of Section 7:
No ordinance or resolution appropriating money exceeding the sum of five hundred dollars, imposing taxes, or authorizing the borrowing of money shall be passed except by a recorded affirmative vote of a majority of all members elected to the governing body. In case of the veto of such an ordinance or resolution, where the power of veto exists, it shall require for passage thereafter a recorded affirmative vote of two-thirds of all members elected to the governing body.
On final vote on any ordinance or resolution, the name of each member voting and how he voted shall be recorded.
| Text of Section 8:
Consent to Use Public Property
No street railway, gas, water, steam or electric heating, electric light or power, cold storage, compressed air, viaduct, conduit, telephone, or bridge company, nor any corporation, association, person, or partnership engaged in these or like enterprises shall be permitted to use the streets, alleys, or public grounds of a city or town without the previous consent of the corporate authorities of such city or town.
| Text of Section 9:
Sale of Property and Granting of Franchises by Cities and Towns
No rights of a city or town in and to its waterfront, wharf property, public landings, wharves, docks, streets, avenues, parks, bridges, or other public places, or its gas, water, or electric works shall be sold except by an ordinance or resolution passed by a recorded affirmative vote of three-fourths of all members elected to the governing body.
No franchise, lease, or right of any kind to use any such public property or any other public property or easement of any description in a manner not permitted to the general public shall be granted for a longer period than forty years, except for air rights together with easements for columns of support, which may be granted for a period not exceeding sixty years. Before granting any such franchise or privilege for a term in excess of five years, except for a trunk railway, the city or town shall, after due advertisement, publicly receive bids therefor. Such grant, and any contract in pursuance thereof, may provide that upon the termination of the grant, the plant as well as the property, if any, of the grantee in the streets, avenues, and other public places shall thereupon, without compensation to the grantee, or upon the payment of a fair valuation therefor, become the property of the said city or town; but the grantee shall be entitled to no payment by reason of the value of the franchise. Any such plant or property acquired by a city or town may be sold or leased or, unless prohibited by general law, maintained, controlled, and operated by such city or town. Every such grant shall specify the mode of determining any valuation therein provided for and shall make adequate provisions by way of forfeiture of the grant, or otherwise, to secure efficiency of public service at reasonable rates and the maintenance of the property in good order throughout the term of the grant.
| Text of Section 10:
(a) No city or town shall issue any bonds or other interest-bearing obligations which, including existing indebtedness, shall at any time exceed ten per centum of the assessed valuation of the real estate in the city or town subject to taxation, as shown by the last preceding assessment for taxes. In determining the limitation for a city or town there shall not be included the following classes of indebtedness:
(1) Certificates of indebtedness, revenue bonds, or other obligations issued in anticipation of the collection of the revenues of such city or town for the then current year; provided that such certificates, bonds, or other obligations mature within one year from the date of their issue, be not past due, and do not exceed the revenue for such year.
(2) Bonds pledging the full faith and credit of such city or town authorized by an ordinance enacted in accordance with Section 7, and approved by the affirmative vote of the qualified voters of the city or town voting upon the question of their issuance, for a supply of water or other specific undertaking from which the city or town may derive a revenue; but from and after a period to be determined by the governing body not exceeding five years from the date of such election, whenever and for so long as such undertaking fails to produce sufficient revenue to pay for cost of operation and administration (including interest on bonds issued therefor), the cost of insurance against loss by injury to persons or property, and an annual amount to be placed into a sinking fund sufficient to pay the bonds at or before maturity, all outstanding bonds issued on account of such undertaking shall be included in determining such limitation.
(3) Bonds of a city or town the principal and interest on which are payable exclusively from the revenues and receipts of a water system or other specific undertaking or undertakings from which the city or town may derive a revenue or secured, solely or together with such revenues, by contributions of other units of government.
(4) Contract obligations of a city or town to provide payments over a period of more than one year to any publicly owned or controlled regional project, if the project has been authorized by an interstate compact or if the General Assembly by general law or special act has authorized an exclusion for such project purposes.
(b) No debt shall be contracted by or on behalf of any county or district thereof or by or on behalf of any regional government or district thereof except by authority conferred by the General Assembly by general law. The General Assembly shall not authorize any such debt, except the classes described in paragraphs (1) and (3) of subsection (a), refunding bonds, and bonds issued, with the consent of the school board and the governing body of the county, by or on behalf of a county or district thereof for capital projects for school purposes and sold to the Literary Fund, the Virginia Supplemental Retirement System, or other State agency prescribed by law, unless in the general law authorizing the same, provision be made for submission to the qualified voters of the county or district thereof or the region or district thereof, as the case may be, for approval or rejection by a majority vote of the qualified voters voting in an election on the question of contracting such debt. Such approval shall be a prerequisite to contracting such debt.
Any county may, upon approval by the affirmative vote of the qualified voters of the county voting in an election on the question, elect to be treated as a city for the purposes of issuing its bonds under this section. If a county so elects, it shall thereafter be subject to all of the benefits and limitations of this section applicable to cities, but in determining the limitation for a county there shall be included, unless otherwise excluded under this section, indebtedness of any town or district in that county empowered to levy taxes on real estate.
The amendment ratified November 4, 1980 and effective January 1, 1981—In subsection (a), substituted "ten per centum" for "eighteen per centum".