Eminent Domain

Constitutional Amendments on the ballot TODAY!

There are two proposed Constitutional Amendments on the today's ballot. I urge you to vote yes on both of them. EMINENT DOMAIN:   Ballot Question One proposes to amend the Virginia Constitution to restrict the condemning or taking of private property only if the property taken (for which the owner is to be compensated)  is for a public use, not merely a public purpose which in Virginia had included taking land for economic development purposes.

This controversy surfaced in 2005 as a result of a US Supreme Court decision, (Kelo v. City of New London) which held that private property could be taken and transferred to a private business to produce more tax revenue. That decision also allowed states to enact laws to restrict such actions.

The General Assembly did enact a more restrictive law in 2007 over strong opposition from real estate developers, Chambers of Commerce, and local elected officials who make zoning decisions.

Because state laws can be changed by a future General Assembly by a simple majority vote, security for property owners is best achieved by a Constitutional Amendment which only the voters may change.

The Amendment provides that private property ownership is a “fundamental” right; that private property takings do NOT include taking or damaging of private property if it is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or for economic development.

Just compensation for property taken includes the value of the property taken, lost profits and lost access, and damages caused by the taking.  The terms “lost profits” and “lost access” are to be defined by the General Assembly in future legislation if voters approve the Amendment.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETINGS:   Ballot Question Two will permit, but not require, the General Assembly to change the date on which the General Assembly must meet to consider Governor’s vetoes and amendments of legislation passed in the regular session.  Presently, the law requires meeting on the sixth Wednesday following the end of each yearly regular session.

If approved, this amendment will permit the General Assembly to delay the start of the veto session for up to one week only.  The General Assembly proposed this change to avoid the scheduling of the veto session on a religious holiday such as Passover.  The veto session usually lasts for one day and must end within ten days.

Virginia’s tradition of protecting religious liberty was affirmed in the 1786 Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom law authored by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and which remains in the Code of Virginia.  It provides "that no man shall be . . . molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free . . . in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities."