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Speak Out: Petersen's Solar Freedom Bill Overturned

Tell us: Should state law be able to retroactively override private agreements?

Speak Out: Petersen's Solar Freedom Bill Overturned

The Virginia Senate rejected an appeal to override Gov. Bob McDonnell's veto of what's known as the solar freedom bill Wednesday, disappointing state Sen. Chap Petersen, who sponsored the legislation.

"This is a common sense bill that would have brought high-paying, high-technology jobs across Virginia while protecting individual property rights within HOAs," Petersen wrote in a statement. "While the Governor continues to protect big coal and provide subsidies for mountaintop mining, Virginia tax payers are losing out on thousands of Federal tax credits from clean, efficient solar energy."

The bill ( HB 627), which passed the Senate on a 31-8 vote during the legislative session, attempted to invalidate any community associations' provisions enacted before July 1, 2008, that prevented people from installing solar panels on their residences. July 1, 2008, is when the original bill calling for solar freedom became effective.

McDonnell, a Republican, vetoed the bill Tuesday, stating it contradicted "the general legislative rule that statutory enactments are applied prospectively." 

But Petersen, D-Fairfax, challenged McDonnell's reasoning on his blog, OxRoadSouth: "Of course, state laws over-ride private agreements all the time. Don’t believe me? Try enforcing a contract to buy a prostitute. Or to collect a gambling debt. Or to pay less than minimum wage. All these are 'contracts' also."

Petersen also pointed to legislation McDonnell signed in 2010 that outlawed any community associations' provisions that prohibited residents from displaying the U.S. flag on their property.

To override the governor's veto, Petersen would have needed to win the support of two-thirds of his fellow senators — a total he cleared when the legislation first passed the chamber, but fell short of in his attempt to appeal.

Tell us: Should state law be able to retroactively override private agreements? 

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