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Speak Out: Petersen's Solar Freedom Bill Overturned

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

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? 

Amelie Krikorian April 20, 2012 at 10:42 AM
I have to agree with Chap on this one. Enabling people to rely more on solar panels to reduce our demand for foreign oil and other non-renewable energy sources makes sense. HOA's can have all kinds of crazy rules, some of which infringe on rights that you are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights -- for example, in our HOA no one is allowed to display political signs. As soon as we can afford it we are hoping to put in a geothermal system for our house and solar panels to heat our water, which my mother did in her beach house. Her electrical bill is something like $25 a month, because it's just the refrigerator, lights, and the washer and dryer.
glen April 29, 2012 at 12:45 AM
I understand that HOAs have the right to regulate the esthetic and architectural issues in neighborhoods to make sure property values and neighbors are protected. But so long someone adds a reasonable amount of solar panels (and yes they come now in different colors not just blue) on the backside of their house, it should be allowed. Is the HOA reimbursing me for the drop in property value one day, if across the street houses outside an HOA with solar or geothermal systems have higher property values because of lower operating costs? California and Hawaii have studies showing that home buyers value houses with renewable energy systems. This will happen soon in Virginia too. Are we a future oriented country and willing to add solar to the energy mix or is it better sending our sons and daughters to other countries to secure or loose their lifes for protecting the fossil fuels. Can an HOA prevent people to contribute to cleaner air using no fossil energy? I wait until a doctor sues an HOA because his own children suffer of asthma due to pollution from locally coal fired electricity plants.
Amelie Krikorian April 29, 2012 at 12:51 AM
I agree -- some things need to be controlled, like whether or not people are putting their garbage cans out of sight in a reasonable amount of time, and whether it's OK to have a car up on blocks in your front yard. Solar panels, however, do add to the value of the house and I think people should have the right to argue that not allowing solar panels conflicts with their concerns over nonrenewable energy sources and global warming.
James Christopher Desmond May 22, 2012 at 11:03 PM
We just had similar proposed legislation in Georgia fail, too. This is an enormously complicated issue, and I have collected research and discussion about it here: https://sites.google.com/site/freemarketsolarpower/home/solar-power-and-hoa-s
richard good, www.solarservices.com May 23, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I have tried to get this piece of legislation through for 9 years running. It has been introduced by Republican and Democrat alike. Bob Tata, one of our customers, a Republican state legislator was the first. The only Republican willing to overide the Governors veto in the senate was Frank Wagner, who has also introduced this legislation in the past.
Anne May 26, 2012 at 03:55 PM
This is another reason I will never vote for the current Governor. As an architect I have been hoping to put solar panels on our home for years. However living in Virginia we have no financial incentives and we can not currently afford it. Luckily I am on our HOA committee so solar panels will be a plus not a negative as long as I am around.
Vicki L. Smith May 28, 2012 at 02:09 PM
The simplest way to save energy is to install a clothesline. Try that with the HOA!! Still can't figure out what is wrong with having clothes in the backyard being dried by the sun and wind. Dryers are the biggest energy hog after the fridge..If it's behind the house and a fence, what should be the problem? Or even if it is seen, doesn't everyone wear clothes?? Let's work on that bill, Should be a simple one.

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