Late last week, Governor Bob McDonnell put the finishing touches on a seven-year legislative struggle to put a proposed property rights amendment to the Virginia Constitution on the ballot for Virginians to ratify! Although the General Assembly completed the prescribed two-year legislative process during its regular session when it approved the language of the proposed amendment, a process that does not include the governor, it still had to pass — and he had to sign — a companion bill to place the measure on the ballot (see Laura Vozzella at the Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). Now, Virginians will have the opportunity this November to enshrine in the Virginia Constitution the right to private property as a "fundamental right," a status reserved for our other precious freedoms, such as free speech and freedom to worship. This fall, we look forward to supporting the campaign for voter ratification.
Ever since the deplorable 2005 Kelo decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the rights of state and local governments to take private land and turn it over to entities, such as large corporations, we and allied organizations have labored for the General Assembly to act. Many states acted immediately, but Virginia delayed and debated. Although it passed a good property rights statute in 2007, attempts were made every subsequent year to chip away at it. Only the safe harbor of a constitutional amendment can fully protect our individual liberties.
Protection from the government’s raw power of eminent domain was in the Virginia Constitution at our founding, but stripped away when rewritten decades ago. Without the protection of our property, we have no place from where to speak, worship or provide for our families. If the government can take our property, there is nothing it can’t take and there is no limit to its size, growth, scope and power.
There are many legislators to thank for this hard-earned and deserving victory over the last seven years, but I encourage you to thank the three lawmakers who served as the patrons of the constitutional amendment over the last two. They masterfully steered the amendment and related legislation around roadblocks and traps set for them session after session by big corporate special interests and local governments, which use your tax money to lobby against your rights. Their dedication, hard work and perseverance on this just cause in the face of extreme opposition guided us to this landmark victory that will protect our homes, businesses and farms. Please thank:
Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville) at DelRBell@house.virginia.gov;
Delegate Johnny Jonannou (D-79, Portsmouth) by phone at (757) 399-1700 or fax at (757) 397-6624; and
Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) at firstname.lastname@example.org.