From the Editor: Vote Yes on the Eminent Domain Amendment

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Vote Yes on the Eminent Domain Amendment

Next month’s ballot will include a referendum on an amendment to Virginia’s Constitution that will protect Virginians from government attempts to seize their property and turn it over to another private owner. This is a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo vs City of New London decision in which the court made the abominable ruling that the city was allowed to seize private property, in that case, houses that a developer wanted for a hotel site even though no public need was served, except that the developer promised their resort would pay the government more in taxes. In the end, the houses were destroyed at public expense while the developer walked away from the plan and the promised jobs and taxes never came true.

Virginians, as the heirs of Patrick Henry, were appalled at this outcome and in 2007 passed a law that forbids our local and state governments from using their eminent domain powers for any purpose other than our general welfare and our public needs, and even those in the most limited manner feasible. It reiterated what we all had understood was our right to really own our property. Since that law passed, interests that find it inconvenient to their ambitions have tried to find ways around it. That’s why we are now at the point of enshrining this concept in our constitution. Let’s do it now.

There is such a thing as natural law, the rights that adhere to a person by virtue of his or her dignity as a human being—life, liberty, the of pursuit of happiness, you know, all that quaint stuff in our Declaration of Independence—and there are the laws men make up to regulate their affairs toward harmony. Beware when men’s laws betray the concept of private property. If that right is nullified by our government, our natural rights are likewise in jeopardy. Lincoln said it all: of the people, by the people, for the people. Yes, yes, yes.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely NOT. The language added has no place in a constitutional amendment and is specific to give corporations the means to sue and drag local and state governments in repaying so-called losses of future “profits” even in case of temporary road improvements. in other words it will do more harm than good for the greater picture. Often infrastructure improvements are a great asset for businesses that rely on them.

    There are already STRONG laws on the books to avoid the abuses around eminent domain here in Virginia. Don’t be fooled. Any added amendment cannot be easily undone once we discover what sneaky writing was put into it. The original version is totally OK.

    There is an excellent rebuttal in the Sunday’s Washington Post of October 21.

  2. The Washington Post Editorial of November 2 clarifies this very bad amendment that essentially is meant to pillage taxpayers for the sole benefit of businesses ( or to make any infrastructure improvement in the future impossible)

    “Vote no on Ballot Question 1 in Va.

    By Editorial Board, Published: November 1

    VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS, in thrall to special interests, are asking voters to approve a state constitutional amendment that would cost state and local governments and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually in giveaways to private landowners and businesses. This staggering act of corporate welfare — as proposed in Question 1 on the ballot Virginia voters will cast Nov. 6 — would go far beyond current law in any other state. Virginians should vote no on Question 1.

    The issue involves how much is owed in compensation to landowners — especially corporations, business owners or farmers — whose property is taken or adversely affected by the government in the course of building roads, power lines, sewers or other public projects.

    Government at all levels engages in the seizure of private property under the power of eminent domain. The general practice has been for governments to compensate owners by paying them fair market value for such property. So far, so good.

    Following a controversial Supreme Court decision in 2005 that granted local officials broad latitude to seize private property for economic development, there was pushback from property rights advocates and conservatives. In more than 40 states, including Virginia, they enacted laws tightening the rules governing property seizures. A handful of states went even further, electing to compensate owners whose property is seized (especially when it’s their principal residence) by paying them 125 percent, 150 percent or, in the case of Kansas, 200 percent of the property’s value.

    Virginia would go way beyond that if Question 1 is approved. In addition to making owners whole by paying them the market value of seized property, the state would also compensate them for “lost profit” and “lost access.” In other words, the sky’s the limit.

    No state has adopted such a law, let alone a constitutional amendment, that would shower so much money on property owners. It would even apply to those who are eager to sell or who might benefit from their inconvenience in the long run — for example, following the construction of a new road or transit station that temporarily impedes access to a business.

    In the event that Question 1 passes at referendum, state lawmakers have decreed that business owners would be entitled to receive government payments equivalent to their most recent three years of profits.

    Conservatives such as Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II, have pushed Question 1, portraying it as a safeguard against government abuse. In fact, the existing law in Virginia, enacted just five years ago, already does that. If Question 1 is approved, the real losers would be taxpayers who would subsidize state-guaranteed profits, and local governments — read: more taxpayers — for whom the cost of projects like new roads and utilities would skyrocket.”

  3. Correction to my statement above . I said “very bad amendment” but mean a very bad rewrite” of an already fine constitutional amendment as it currently is written.

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