Several points are noteworthy about the development of the Local Government Article. First, Virginia is unique among the 50 states in that cities are independent of counties for purposes of governance. Although the 1971 Constitution combined into one article the separate provisions for county governments, on the one hand, and cities and towns, on the other hand, and also provided for more equal treatment of these units of government, the long-standing separation of cities and counties has been retained.
Another important feature of local governance in Virginia is that courts have been guided by the Dillon Rule, and therefore local governments possess only those powers granted to them. Despite an effort on the part of the 1969 Commission on Constitutional Revision to bring about a reversal of Dillon's Rule and thereby permit a greater degree of home rule for local governments, this longstanding rule of statutory construction has survived.
Still another notable aspect of local governance in Virginia is the continued existence of a number of local constitutional officers. From the beginning, Virginia constitutions have made provision for certain county officials, and though the specific offices have changed through the years, the current Constitution continues this tradition and also makes provision for the equivalent city officials. Thus voters in each city and county are required to elect a treasurer, sheriff, commonwealth's attorney, clerk of court, and commissioner of revenue, unless they decide by referendum to eliminate any of these offices.
A final aspect of local governance in Virginia that has undergone important constitutional and statutory changes is the process for changing the boundaries of cities, counties, and towns. Prior to the 1902 Constitution, boundaries were changed through special legislative acts. However, since the enactment of the
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Publication information: Book title: The Virginia State Constitution: A Reference Guide. Contributors: John Dinan - Author. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2006. Page number: 152.
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