Tidewater Libetarian Party Legislative Proposals

From Tidewater Libertarian Party General Counsel Steve Merrill:

Ten Modest Legislative Proposals

Those who believe in far greater personal and economic freedom for Virginians are sometimes criticized as unrealistic. It is said by many our nation cannot go back to the simplicities of the times of Thomas Jefferson or even to the times of Teddy Roosevelt. It is considered impossible to go in reverse down the 20th Century road to greater and greater government control over our lives. According to the self-proclaimed realists, if every citizen became suddenly free from the majority of the laws that bind us chaos would rule. People could not be prepared for such a transformation.

The Tidewater Libertarian Party wishes to show the fallacy in this. Greater freedom can come in doses just like our former freedom was eroded law by law. A combination of new laws expanding the citizens’ freedom in Virginia that may not be large steps individually would have a larger effect together over time.

For the 2009 session of the Virginia General Assembly the following legislative bills are offered as a way to reverse course from arbitrary government in a smooth way.

1. Allow parents and students to select the public school they wish to attend. (Amending Title 22.1, Education) There never has been a good reason students should be forced to attend one school when there are other public schools within reasonable driving distance. This reform would over time make public schools more competitive with little to no impact on annual funding overall.

2. Establish an Office of the Budget Hawk made up of a commission and field investigators none of who are full-time State employees other than the Commission Chairman and his or her immediate staff. The office would be devoted to reducing the scope and expenditures of the State and local governments through oversight and innovative solutions. The Budget Hawk would have authority to probe all aspects of State and local spending and make recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly for reductions/reforms. (Title 2.2, Administration of Government.)

This proposal allows the private sector to keep an eye on all aspects of public spending at little cost to the taxpayer while looking for large budget savings. Many, many freedom lovers would offer their services pro bono to such an unusual government enterprise.

3. Abolish the State income tax in phases while increasing the State sales tax to make up for lost revenue. (Title 58.1, Taxation.)

With only a single rate for Virginia income tax and sales tax there is little reason in social policy to have two tax systems in place. It is better public policy to discourage consumption through taxation than to discourage work and investment through taxation. The dignity of Virginians would benefit when they no longer have to report to the State their annual incomes.

4. Pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use by the State of technical devices to monitor the behavior or determine the biological makeup of citizens other than probationers.

Not much of this takes place now, but advancing technology does present a considerable threat to freedom. It is best to outlaw the idea before it can take hold.

5. Allow the ownership of prisons to shift to the private sector while safeguarding the safety, dignity and civil liberties of prisoners.

It must be the State that sends someone to prison, but it does not have to be the State carrying out the sentence. With appropriate limits in place, private prisons have been a success in other States. Over time, the State’s spending on prisons would be reduced by one-third or more while prison workers learned valuable skills they are not learning today in Virginia.

6. Change the threshold for election to statewide office to be a majority of the votes cast. This would sometimes require a second round election between the top two candidates. (Title 24.2, Elections.)

This reform ensures the Governor. Lt. Governor, Attorney General and US Senators are supported by a majority of voters every time while encouraging a larger field of candidates in the first round of the election.

7. Pass an amendment to the Virginia Constitution forbidding the use of eminent domain as a mechanism for economic development by the State and localities.

This is the unfinished business from the landmark reform in Virginia of eminent domain laws in 2007. The protection of land ownership may very well fade in Richmond when hard times arrive. The constitutional amendment failed by two votes in the Senate in 2007.

8. Enact a Resolution informing the President and the Congress that the Commonwealth of Virginia remains sovereign in its powers and in its obligations to Washington, D.C. warning that more encroachment of State authority at the federal level will be resisted.

The devil will be in the details for this generally popular proposal.

9. Establish a judicial selection commission empowered to nominate the candidates for judgeships and providing for a popular vote for the retention of a judge for another term. Legislators would select from three or more candidates nominated by the commission.

Fifteen states have found this method of selecting judges to be superior to selection solely on a political basis (like Virginia) or holding contested elections for judges (like eighteen States). A commission could employ testing of intellect and character that would ensure only people cut out for the job become nominated for selection. Facing a Yes or No vote from the public is a better way to police the performance of judges already serving than to leave reappointment entirely up to one or two local legislators.

10. Protect the privacy of homes and businesses by restricting the use of forced entries by law enforcement executing search warrants. Something like this (Chapter 19.2):

The execution of a search warrant on an occupied dwelling by forced entry shall be employed by law-enforcement only after the occupants are provided adequate opportunity to voluntarily open the premises for inspection. If the dwelling appears unoccupied the least intrusive reasonable method for forced entry shall the used.

A judge or magistrate issuing a search warrant may make exceptions to this rule thereby authorizing a no-knock forced entry by law-enforcement into an occupied dwelling in cases where (i) there is clear and convincing evidence of the presence of a large quantity of easily disposed of contraband in the occupied dwelling, (ii) there is substantial evidence that people within the dwelling are presently in peril of serious harm, or (iii) there is substantial evidence that an armed suspect subject to an arrest warrant is present in the occupied dwelling. The special circumstances must be supported by the requesting officer in his affidavit and entered into the search warrant by the judge or magistrate.

A search warrant served contrary to these rules shall be invalid and all evidence thus obtained shall be excluded from use at trial.

If these measures were enacted, in whole or part, Virginia could begin to enjoy greater personal and economic freedom without courting radical change. Each of these proposals relate to a long held public value of Virginians dating back to the Commonwealth’s founding that remains vital today.

After all, most good things in life develop over a period of time.


42 Responses to Tidewater Libetarian Party Legislative Proposals

  1. ktc2 says:

    Reasonable proposals which will be roundly ignored.

    Sorry, I’m just very cynical these days having seen every reasonable proposal for real reform ignored in my lifetime in favor of the completely unreasonable to the outright ludicrous.

  2. Bill says:

    I’m particularly pleased with 7, regarding eminent domain. 5, regarding privatization of prisons, is good, but if implemented, careful supervision is necessary: here in Pennsyvlania, we recently had a couple of judges convicted of taking kickbacks from private juvenile detention facilities for sending them kids, some of whom shouldn’t have been locked up at all.

    As to 10, what about a requirement that ALL warrants in which entry is forced be video recorded? In addition to the evidentiary value after the fact, this would help to ensure that knocking actually constituted KNOCKING, that announcements were genuinely intended to be audible, and that a “reasonable amount of time” was observed between the knock-and-announce and the breaching of the door.

  3. Scooby Doo says:

    Re: #7, The Commonwealth in legitimate cases of eminent domain should be required to make the private party whole again, not just market value but all reasonable considerations of value to the property owner. Aesthetic, heritage, etc. In appeals against the Commonwealth found in favor of the property owner the Commonwealth shall pay legal fees and costs.
    Insure greater transparency in the eminent domain process.

  4. price says:


    Re 10: Forget the video because in due time someone will file a FOIA on the video then boom another TV show. I thought there where rules in effect for no knock warrants already.

    Change the name “Office of the Budget Hawk” is sounds unprofessional(minor detail).

  5. What about a Citizen Review board for each city, and marijuana decriminalization?

    Also, a distinction should be made between the authorization for a no-knock raid and that for a knock and announce. No-knock should only be permitted in a life-threatening situation, but shouldn’t require a magistrate’s authorization, since barricade and hostage situations can arise suddenly. However, after the fact, a no-knock should be explained to a grand jury, with full power to indict, within 24 hours of the event.

    A knock and announce must be specifically authorized by a judge, after assembling the entry team in safe cover positions, an announcement must be made either by telephone or bull horn.

  6. Also, require any warrant service to be captured on video. Not just one camera, in case of equipment failure, require a camera in every car on the scene be left on for the duration of the event.

    Recently, there was an event that occurred somewhere, where some questionable police activity was alleged. Nine cars arrived on scene with cameras functioning, then prior to the alleged misconduct, all nine cameras “malfunctioned”. If every car camera malfunctions, at a given event, every officer on scene should be required to appear before a grand jury, with full power to indict, to explain it within 24 hours.

    Information from a CI must not be used to obtain a warrant unless it is recorded on audio or video, and the authorizing magistrate must review the recording.

  7. Oh, Price, I don’t care if police activity is turned into a television show. Let the public see exactly how they are being “protected” and “served”.

    For that matter, incredible peer pressure is applied amongst police to cover for each other. Sometimes, good cops don’t follow their consciences, due to this peer pressure, and the likelihood of career repercussions. The knowledge that their actions are captured on video and my be reviewed outside the department, possibly even on television, can provide cover for the good cops from such pressures.

    “Lieutenant, I can’t do that. I’ll end up on TV, and in real trouble.”

  8. price says:


    I am not in favor of an all citizen review board, key word is all.
    As for the TV show, people base to much of how the real world is by TV, not jsut police shows, but all those real life drama ones too.

  9. Office of the Budget Hawk, even if renamed to sound more professional, doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. It’s another bureaucracy that will become politicized, then rubber stamp every awful idea proposed by the chairman’s political allies. The federal government has the Government Accounting Office, which is supposed to do the same thing proposed here. Need I say any more? I like the intent, but history doesn’t inspire me with confidence.

  10. CEH says:


    Citizen review boards have their pros and cons. Numerous studies have been conducted. In many cases, the board was more lenient on officers accused of misconduct than the PD Admin would have been. Be careful what you wish for.

  11. CEH says:

    Marijuana decriminalization and govt. regulation is a noble cause in my opinion. Do we go further and legalize heroin, cocaine and meth.? What do we do with the abusers of the harder drugs? They are less apt to be productive citizens as those that abuse alcohol or marijuana after all (more potent effects I’ve been told). What laws do we put in place for driving under the influence of marijuana, if in fact it has a detrimental effect on this public activity? When certain activity becomes acceptable, but then complaints of abuse come to light, what burdens will we put on the police to enforce the public’s and politician’s wills regarding the activity? Will heroin become the new marijuana? How dare they attempt to force entry for such an activity? Where does it end?

  12. I’m listening, Price. What do you think would be the ideal composition of a CRB?

    I wouldn’t want any current officers on the board. Nor would I want the board to be composed of more than 10% former police. Either way, I do think an active duty officer should serve as an adviser. An attorney, too.

    And, the thing would be useless without full access to all records, including those related to ongoing investigations. Where CRB’s exist, but don’t have access to such records, you’d be shocked at how many “ongoing investigations” there are, and how long they on-go.

  13. price says:

    you have to have current officers on the board. Doctors have active doctors on their boards. Lawyers have lawyers on their boards. I do not have enough knowledge about CRB’s for law enforcement to discuss in great detail. I just think there has to be someone who has knowledge on police procedures and actually how the job works. Let me think about it some more.

  14. CEH, if I were King of the Commonwealth, yes, I would legalize all drugs. But we’re talking baby steps. Realistic proposals. That’s why I’m using the term “decriminalization”, rather than “legalization”. Decrim would only constitute relegating possession and trade to ticketable offenses, rather than arrestable ones. Fines, instead of imprisonment.

    See, the main thing I want to eliminate here, is the tendency of police to place a higher priority on vice than crimes with real victims. The reason they do this, is because it’s profitable to the department. Cash is seized. Property is seized and auctioned. You’d be surprised how often raids are conducted where nobody is charged. You might think I’m making this up, but it’s true: the cash is charged with the crime. Then, the cash doesn’t have the benefit of innocent until proven guilty. You have to prove your innocence to get the cash back. Police agencies perform these raids to keep the cash and have it applied to their budgets.

    Along those same lines, agencies perform busts to then charge someone with a crime, then arrange a deal to reduce the penalty to a fine. Again, to make off with the cash, and use it in their budget. Given this pattern, does it seem likely that was the intent of CPD when they initiated the raid on RF? Shivers died enforcing an offense that almost certainly would have resulted in a fine of less than $500.00.

  15. Jones says:

    Creating a private prison system doesn’t really make sense. Now they have to turn a profit. How’s that going to save money??
    Going to any school you want to. Do you realize how that would make planning impossible? You would also create packed schools that have exceptional sports and scholastics. Until of course the crowd ruined the school, then it would shift and so on. Sorry but I’d drive an hour to get my kid in Hickory over Indian River any day.(For Chesapeake residents)
    Create a new agency to save money? In my experience in government new agencies always cost money. In tight times you shrink government. The people should be the “Budget Hawk”. That’s why it’s all made public. Overall your ideas make people feel all warm and Libertarian but they won’t happen and for good reason.

  16. Additionally, I think drug enforcement as a whole would taper off organically if you took marijuana enforcement off the table. Think about it. Pot is easy to detect, even in personal use amounts. It has a pungent odor, it’s bulky in any quantity greater than a half ounce. An equivalent, though different, high is achievable with a fraction of the volume of cocaine, which is also odorless, at least to humans. LSD is conveyed in pinkie-nail size stamp-like blotters. Uppers are pills, no larger than an over-the counter Ibuprofin. Drugs other than pot take a lot more effort to enforce, and are therefore less often enforced.

    Anecdotes aside, the statistics support this assertion too. According to the government’s own statistics, drug offenses account for 21% of state and 50.5% of federal prisoners, as of 2006. These statistics exclude those who were also convicted of crimes against persons or property. Just drug convictions. Of these drug offenders, 76% were convicted of simple possession, not intent to distribute. Of those convicted of simple possession, 80% were for marijuana only.

    The evidence is, that the war on drugs is a war on marijuana. Take marijuana enforcement off the table, and I believe the war on drugs withers on the vine.

  17. CEH says:


    I think a review of history will find that today’s asset forfeiture laws are not what was in place during Nixon’s “War on Drugs” phase and Reagan’s “Just Say No” in the 80’s. What you, as Libertarians, must ask yourselves is “How do we gain broad support from society for our initiatives?” Education is the key. That takes money. Again, good luck.

  18. CEH says:

    Another thing, and I know skepticism will abound, but visit the Va. Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) website, as well as its Federal equivalent, and you will find there are hard and fast rules for what asset seizure money can be used for, taking the place of police budgetary line items is not acceptable. Supplementing, not supplanting, is what the money should be used for. That may be splitting hairs, but it goes to show that the current laws see some of the issues regarding these seized funds and assets. No PD should rely on seizures or plan their budgets and expenditures around them, that would be unethical in my opinion.

  19. Price, I just believe that a CRB run by or influenced by active duty cops is no different than an internal affairs division. I hear you about the expertise, which is why I propose an active duty police adviser.

    The CRB formed in Atlanta following the Kathryn Johnston shooting is a good model. The CRB in Pittsburgh is widely praised by virtually everyone except the narcotics division and SWAT teams there, which I assume means the thing is working well.

    But if you take the idea seriously, and have some ideas to contribute, I absolutely would like to hear them.

  20. ktc2 says:


    The forfeiture rules seem about as full of holes as the fourth amendment at this point. Wasn’t there a case just recently of a sheriff seizing cars and letting friends and family keep them. I seem to recall his daughter got a “new” car every month from asset forfeiture.

  21. Scooby Doo says:

    Google: abuse of asset forfeiture.

  22. ktc2 says:

    A friend of mine from Texas was driving to LA to spend his vacation with his family there. He got stopped because he “matched the description” of someone they were looking for. He told me the cops actually high-fived each other when they found out his car had no lein on it. He never got his car back, or his vacation money that was in his wallet. He was never charged with anything.

  23. price says:

    ktc2– Is there more story to your post or is that it. No attorney was willing to help out your friend.

  24. Scooby Doo says:

    Price, Please read this article to get an idea of the scope of the abuse:

  25. Scooby Doo says:

    You might find this even more instructive:

  26. Jones says:

    Rick Caldwell,
    Your saying 50.5% of Federal prisoners are in solely because of drugs. 76% of those prisoners were convicted of simple possession of some drug. 80% of those were for simple possession of marijuana. A little basic math on those numbers says that 30.7% of all FEDERAL inmates are in SOLELY for the MISDEMEANOR (not a felony in any state) of Simple Possession of Marijuana. There are obviously some serious errors in your numbers!!!!!!!!!

  27. supercat says:

    I would add a major extension to #10: explicitly allow defense attorneys to challenge the validity of warrants and searches before a jury. Unless the right of jury trial is waived, juries are supposed to decide all matters of fact. Since the reasonableness of any particular warrant or search may involve factors that have never before been considered, it must be regarded as question of fact, rather than merely a question of law.

    Among other things, jurors should be told that

    (1) Anyone seeking a warrant must supply the judge with any and all information they have which they do or should reasonably believe might cause the warrant to be rejected (jurors would decide whether a stated belief that certain evidence was irrelevant was reasonable or not).

    (2) Probable cause must be established by sworn statements regarding the personal knowledge and observations of the person giving them. Unsworn hearsay may sometimes be helpful in establishing background (e.g. explaining why an officer was in a particular place to see something) but should be given no weight that would favor the issuance of a warrant. The level of evidence required by a typical jury would probably be below that required for a good judge, but above that required by a rubber-stamp judge.

    (3) While cops have a right and duty to execute warrants, they are required to do so in the manner that minimizes dangers and trauma to people and damage to property. A search in which cops act in a manner inconsistent with that of a reasonable person seeking those objectives is unreasonable and thus illegitimate.

    Jurors should be instructed that if they determine that any evidence is gathered in violation of the above, they have a right and duty not to construe it in any way detrimental to the defendant.

    I’m sure some people would complain that under the above standards, many searches would be considered illegitimate. My argument would be that under the Constitution, many searches (as they are conducted today) are illegitimate, and it’s time people acknowledged that fact and started requiring the government to behave legitimately.

  28. supercat says:

    BTW, I would add another rule: people have the right to resist the actions of government agents if (1) they have a reasonable belief beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of those government agents could not be legitimate, or (2) the actions of the government agents are, in fact, illegitimate. In cases where an agent threatens to unlawfully disarm, subdue, or injure someone, that person has the right to use deadly force if necessary.

    Some people might see such a rule as a step toward anarchy, but I would see it as a step away from the totalitarian anarchy that pervades much of government.

  29. ktc2 says:


    Well you could say his offense was driving while black, and the attorney’s he consulted wanted more than he had in total as an up front retainer, and told him his chances of winning were virtually nill and there would likely be even more fees after the retainer.

    That’s about all there was to the story besides him calling his family to beg for airfare to get home and having to get a new car on credit because the cops had just robbed him of the one he owned and stole all his savings.

  30. CEH says:

    It seems to me these efforts are misplaced and are spawned by disagreement about the current prohibition of drugs. If, and it is a big if, the recommendations posted here were to come about and the use of drugs remained illegal, all you would be doing is empowering drug dealers and manufacturers and give them plenty of loopholes to continue their efforts at destroying our neighborhoods. I suggest you rally your forces and press for the legalization of marijuana at first, I’m not sure about harder drugs, but think baby steps are in order. “Reasonableness” is always a subjective assessment of any situation, that changes nothing. The police will always find themselves being second guessed because of that, especially if drug use remains illegal and folks like yourselves don’t agree with that.

    • Don Tabor says:

      “It seems to me these efforts are misplaced and are spawned by disagreement about the current prohibition of drugs.”

      CEH – While I do believe that the social battle against drug use is better fought in the economic and medical arenas, changing drug laws is very low on my list of priorities.

      Honoring both the spirit and the letter of our Constitution comes first, and the worst thing about drug prohibition is that it has served as a justification for gutting our Constitutional rights. Many people have stated in this forum what they would have done had it been their door breached in the night by police, but few have considered what Washington or Mason or Jefferson would have done. I would suggest they would not only have fired on the police, they would have followed them back and burned down the courthouse.

      In our lust for the illusion of safety, we have allowed our precious Liberty to be nibbled away to the point that the Founders of our country would consider us decadent beyond redemption. We Libertarians see ourselves as the keepers of the light of Liberty in exile, trying to restore the Rights our fathers enjoyed through persuasion, so our grandchildren will not have to buy them back with blood.

      So, these proposals are not about drugs. They are about restoring the free country we have allowed to slip away.

  31. price says:


    What was the basis for the seizure of vehicle and cash? The ACLU did not pick up on the this issue or NAACP? When did this happen?

  32. CEH says:

    ktc2, obviously your friend is your friend and you take him at his word. Maybe there is more to it, I don’t know. That’s why it seems so many LEO’s jump to support other LEO’s, there is always more to it and they know one another. Those that defend the CPD folks in this current situation may actually know them, and what is in their hearts, so they feel compelled to defend them as best they can.

  33. supercat says:

    If, and it is a big if, the recommendations posted here were to come about and the use of drugs remained illegal, all you would be doing is empowering drug dealers and manufacturers and give them plenty of loopholes to continue their efforts at destroying our neighborhoods.

    Unreasonable police tactics are unreasonable, regardless of whether the War on Politically-Incorrect Drugs could be fought without them. If one wishes to win people over toward acceptance of decriminalization, one must demonstrate that decriminalization is not motivated by a desire of people to get high, but rather a desire to avoid totalitarian anarchy.

  34. Scooby Doo says:

    Did you read the articles about the documented abuses of the asset forfeitures and confiscation?

  35. Price says:

    Yes, I did. I find it hard to believe some of those stories. I can see how some of those small Sheriff’s department’s rely on the seizure money.

  36. I won’t run from it. I’m for legalizing drugs. All of ’em. And gambling. And prostitution.

    If it takes baby steps to get there, I’m for that too, but we need to get started immediately. First step is to make the cops feel a little shame over the militarized tactics. The ones who won’t feel shame after they’ve been shown in clear terms why they should need to be exposed for the bullies they are.

    That will take new restrictions on the tactics they are authorized to use and when. And cameras. Lots of cameras. Dirty cops run from cameras like cockroaches from the light.

  37. Scooby Doo says:

    You seem to have a willing suspension of disbelief when in comes to the capacity of authorities to go rogue.

  38. Len Rothman says:

    Don, from someone generally on the other side of the political spectrum, I generally agree with all but two of your proposals. I think the election for second term seems a decent compromise, but judges running for office puts them in a position to do the popular rather than the legal.

    Second, I do not agree that prisons should be privatized.

    Punishment for profit puts our enforcement system in the hands of private enterprise, whose sole interest is profit, and with prisoner treatment not a very popular topic among the various legislative interests now, it will be less so if privatized. My understanding is that Libertarians ascribe few roles to a government, but the judicial branch was one of them, for protection from force and fraud. I think that all aspects of our justice system needs to be accountable as a government agency. After all, it is the government that was elected to enforce our laws, and that should include incarceration.

    As recently as about 50 years ago, there was virtual slavery in the south with private prison camps set up to exploit free labor under brutal conditions.
    It would be far too easy to slip back to that since prison conditions are never a priority with any politician. We pass laws to force transparency in government (FOIA, for example), but it is hard to do that in a corporation.

    In addition, if the state were to provide very strict oversight, and pay for the prison service also, they might as well run it. Now reform is certainly needed, but that is a another story.

  39. Price says:


    No disblief here, it is just the belief of when you thought you have seen and heard it all. Then something else is out there. I have no doubt that people (LE included) can go rogue. I know this is off the topic, but look at Obama now. Two of his picks can’t even pay their taxes. Daschele forgot to pay over 120,000 in taxes and forgot until herealized Obama would pick him. People are funny animals.

  40. Ethan says:

    1 – first, parents would have to drive their kids – no public transportation. Second, it would hurt the lower income students, since they would be the left overs. You want to send snoddly to private school, pay for it. How about we totally randomize all students with the schools? That’d bust up home values AND cure race issues.

    2 – I agree

    3 – Brick and Mortar is dead, this would hurt states a ton. Who doesn’t shop online?

    4 – Uh yeeeaaa

    5 – No, that would be horrible. In case you didn’t notice, America is close to failure from the fraud from our corporations and the fact our entire country is a ponzi scheme. You want them running prisons too?

    6 – n/c

    7 – Interesting. Could halt progress, but I dig it. It could kill things like light rail, trains, new roads, forever.

    8 – n/c

    9 – Yea, some judges are mental cases.

    10 – pretty obvious.

  41. Reid Greenmun says:

    Great discussions. The real trick is getting the support of the General Assembly.

    Electing Libertarians to serve is one strategy to ensure that the Libertarian viewpoint is represented within our state government.

    In order for Libertarians to win elections we need to educate the voters about who Libertarians are and why our approach to governing will benefit voters and our nation.

    In order to edicate the voters we need money – that requires fund raising and organization.

    Having good ideas is a great beginning, but we have a lot of work to do to transform these good ideas into reality.

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