Senate Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee

Property Rights Bill Faces Key Senate Test Tomorrow!

Yesterday, we posted an update on HB 652, a bill that would allow property owners to present certain evidence to juries in eminent domain just compensation cases. The bill, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville), will be up tomorrow for a key vote at a 4:00 hearing in the Senate Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee. We don't know yet if the big government lobby will try to make a last stand to block or water down this important legislation in the Senate. Their attempt in the House failed. We and several allies are working hard to ensure the bill gets reported unamended. But, to give you a taste of what has happened in the past — and what may happen still — here is video of the hearing in the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Transportation. You will see a VDOT representative try to defend a speculative Fiscal Impact Statement designed to sink the bill because of alleged costs to the Commonwealth. Notice his nervousness. He knows the numbers don't fly (as we explained here).

The sub-committee didn't buy it either. It unanimously reported it to the full committee — which deals with all money bills and knows a red herring when it sees one — and which also reported it without a dissenting vote, thanks in large part to Chairman Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) who spoke some plain common sense during its final vetting. Then it passed the full House 98-1. But overwhelming numbers in one body has never stopped determined opposition from trying in the other chamber. Remember: Contacting committee members (see here) never hurts.

Constitutional property rights upheld in the House. Will the Senate follow tomorrow?

Beat Back Big Government And Protect Property Rights!

Thursday afternoon in the Senate Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee, a bill to allow people to receive just compensation when their property is taken by the government in eminent domain cases will be heard. The bill, HB 652, is supported by a broad coalition including The Family Foundation, the Farm Bureau, Tertium Quids (see comment here) and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.  The bill passed the House of Delegates 98-1, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything to the Senate. The patron of the bill is House Democrat Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) and is co-patroned by several Republicans.  It faces the forces of big government — VDOT and local governments who use our tax money to hire lobbyists to work against our interests — who forced the bill while in the House from the Courts of Justice Committee to the Appropriations Committee with a tactic designed to kill it. There is no doubt they will pull out all the stops in the Senate as well.

But we can beat them in the Senate, too: In the House Appropriations Transportation Sub-committee, Delegate Bob Tata (R-85, Virginia Beach), a senior member of the committee, said he HB 652 came to his attention after he received more e-mail on it than any other bill this session. It shows that actively engaged citizens truly have power!

The bill simply allows property owners to present evidence to juries that they deserve just compensation for land not taken in eminent domain cases, but rendered useless because of the taking of adjacent land.  Right now, people are compensated only for the land taken, not additional land that the taking has rendered unusable. The bill is a complement to the landmark 2007 eminent domain reform law that limits government abuse of people’s property rights.

This is a very fair, very needed and very just bill for families who own homes, small businesses and farms.  If government really needs your land, they should buy only what they need and not try to get more of it on the cheap. This bill costs government nothing — it only provides for a fair hearing as to what property owners are entitled to. Government agencies will retain their right to make their case as well. It’s about fairness! As Delegate Armstrong has said, 'The worst thing the government can do is take your life; the second worst thing it can do is take your property."

If you who think the 2007 law solved all eminent domain problems, a case in Roanoke from two years ago is still in the news (see From On High), where the Burkholder family is losing its small business to the city who wants its land, even though it has no plans for it! So, click here to contact members of the Senate Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee and ask them to vote for HB 652 in sub-committee this Thursday afternoon.