- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

Virginia gubernatorial candidate George B. Fitch yesterday said the doctrine that gives the state authority over local governments “should be put in a museum.”

Mr. Fitch, who is mayor of Warrenton in Fauquier County, said the so-called Dillon Rule should be amended to give Virginia cities and counties authority to raise some taxes and address their local issues.

“Philosophically, I am strongly opposed to the Dillon Rule,” said Mr. Fitch, a Republican. “It’s rather perverse. We’re in a Republican state, and a bedrock Republican principle and credo is self-rule, local rule. … We basically ball-and-chain and handcuff local governments.”

Appearing on WTOP Radio’s “The Politics Program” yesterday, Mr. Fitch said the Dillon Rule prevents him from implementing a stronger dog leash ordinance.

“I’ve got to go down to Richmond and beg,” he said. “We need to let local governments have more control, more authority, more decision-making policy on key issues of growth.”

Virginia and 38 other states follow the Dillon Rule, as opposed to home-rule states, according to research by the Brookings Institution. Virginia adheres to it more strictly than other states, though it is not state law or part of the state constitution.

The Dillon Rule is named for Judge John F. Dillon, an Iowa Supreme Court justice who devised the concept in 1868. It states that localities can exercise only those powers that have been explicitly granted by the state.

Mr. Fitch faces former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore in the June 14 Republican primary.

The winner will advance to the Nov. 8 general election to face Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, and Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., a Winchester Republican who is running as an independent.

Mr. Kilgore supports the Dillon Rule, his spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “It generally assures the uniformity of laws across the state,” he said.

Mr. Kaine, who was a City Council member and mayor in Richmond before becoming lieutenant governor, also supports the doctrine.

“Someone in local government … pursuing the interest of localities is not so restrained by the Dillon Rule that they can’t do what is in the best interest of their area,” Kaine campaign spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said. “The Dillon Rule ensures that there is a fair amount of uniformity across the state in terms of what local governments are able to do.”

Mr. Potts said consistency on regulations such as pollution levels is a good thing but said the state should alter parts of the Dillon Rule to “keep with the 21st century.”

In his hometown of Winchester, for example, residents passed by 70 percent a sales-tax referendum to fund public education but still needed the General Assembly’s permission.

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