Cuccinelli gets one exactly right

I don’t often agree with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, but his advisory opinion about whether the state should be able to give money to nonprofit charities despite a constitutional prohibition against giving state money “to any charitable institution which is not owned or controlled by the Commonwealth,” is indisputably correct: The clear language of the state constitution means what it says.

For years, legislators had ignored this clear prohibition, appropriating money for nonprofit charities that, by and large, did good work: Food banks, free clinics, arts organizations, groups that work to prevent child abuse, etc. Since his opinion was issued, the state has been examining payments authorized by the last state budget, and holding up some of them that may run afoul of the constitutional provision.

This is unfortunate. Many of these charitable organizations, as I said, do good work – often more efficiently than the state could provide the same services.

Some legislators are unhappy that an advisory opinion is having such drastic impact. “What has set all this into motion is the attorney general’s opinion,” said Sen. R. Edward Houck, D-Spotsylvania. “I hope that level-headed people would understand that the opinion should not carry the day.”

To which Cuccinelli had a wickedly true response: “For those legislators who are disparaging the attorney general’s office for its plain reading of the state constitution, they should know they are the only ones who can change laws they don’t like. That power does not rest with this office.”

If legislators don’t like what the state constitution says, the process to begin changing it starts with them. Get cracking, guys.

(h/t Jerry Fuhrman)


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