Virginia Constitution

Support Defunding The Attorney General's Attack On Marriage!

Ever since Attorney General Mark Herring disenfranchised more than a million Virginia voters and turned his back on his oath to uphold Virginia's constitution, citizens across the commonwealth have been asking, "What can be done?" Every option is being explored, but tomorrow, the House of Delegates likely will try to hit Herring where it can — in his budget. Multiple budget amendments will be introduced tomorrow, when the House debates and amends its budget bill, by Delegates Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) that would prohibit the Office of Attorney General from using taxpayer dollars to challenge Virginia's Marriage Amendment.

Please click here to contact your Delegate and urge him or her to support any effort to defund Attorney General Herring's attack on the Virginia Constitution!

Regardless of one's position on the Marriage Amendment, the decision of Attorney General Herring to not only abandon the state constitution — and the voters — but actually attack it by joining in a case in to overturn one of its amendments, is both unprecedented and dangerous. It bases the defense of every law and constitutional amendment in Virginia on the whims of one individual.

So outrageous is the arrogance of the attorney general, that he has added a statement to his website proclaiming:

The Attorney General is the sole person empowered to present the Commonwealth's position in legal matters and it is up to him or her to determine that position through rigorous legal analysis.

Until Attorney General Herring took office, laws in the commonwealth were assumed to be constitutional until a court ruled otherwise. Now, this attorney general has placed himself above the law, the constitution, and above the courts as the final arbiter of what is constitutional.

The House of Delegates is fighting back. Tomorrow, it will vote on its budget. Please encourage your delegate to stand up for your vote and the rule of law, and adopt budget amendments that defund the attorney general's attack on the Virginia Constitution!

Please click here to contact your Delegate and urge him or her to support any effort to defund Attorney General Herring's attack on the Virginia Constitution!

 

Vital Vote Tomorrow To Prevent VDOT Abuse Of Virginia’s Property Rights Amendment!

Your urgent action is needed! Yet another amendment to our state constitution is under threat!

In 2012, after eight long years of inaction, the General Assembly passed, and 75 percent of Virginians ratified, an amendment to the Virginia Constitution to prevent eminent domain abuse. Now, VDOT has found a way around the fundamental right of property ownership enshrined in constitutional law!

A key House sub-committee tomorrow afternoon will consider SB 194, a bill to prevent VDOT from practicing in certain cases a process called inverse condemnation, which it has found to be a back door way to take property without just compensation to the owners. Doing so amounts to a backdoor subsidization for VDOT from already stressed Virginians whose taxes were raised last year to pay for new roads.

The bill is patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg). For more information on how VDOT practices this shameful tactic to cheat people out of their land, see a blog post I wrote here. To understand the long train of abuses by VDOT on Virginia taxpayers and property owners, and to see a video of a VDOT official lobbying the General Assembly against your rights while being paid by your tax dollars, please click here.

Please click here to contact members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee and urge them to vote YES on SB 194 Monday!

Hands Off My Home-Church-Business

As Big Vote On Property Rights Looms, VDOT Continues To Subvert Property Rights Amendment

On Monday afternoon, the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee will consider SB 194, patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), a bill to put at least a partial stop on the practice of inverse condemnation, a back door method of eminent domain without just compensation prohibited by the Property Rights Amendment to the Virginia Constitution ratified by 75 percent of Virginians in 2012. (Click here for a previous posts explaining this devious process.) But it doesn't stop there. VDOT has practiced a long line of abuses to prevent the people of Virginia from enjoying what our constitution calls a "fundamental right," which is the most basic of God given rights. Property ownership is cherished as a fundamental right along with all those enumerated in the Bill of Rights, for without property, one has no protection from the government to practice free speech or worship, or even to own a home or make a living to support one's family.

For example, this op-ed by Roger Chesley in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, appropriately titled, "VDOT takes the low road on bait and switch tactics on land grabs," plainly explains the horrors of VDOT on the Ramsey family in Virginia Beach and why actions such as this sour voters on all government. VDOT bought the Ramsey’s property in an eminent domain case but now, because VDOT’s own actions have devalued the property, it is suing the Ramsey’s for a refund!

VDOT’s tactics in the Ramsey case are one of several it is using to sully government and hammer families into submission. VDOT fought for eight years against eminent domain reform after the deplorable Kelo decision. Now, despite the massive mandate of the Property Rights Amendment less than two years ago, VDOT continues to subvert it and torment hard working Virginia families by taking their property and not paying just compensation. Here's a list of VDOT's other actions, and below, see a video of a VDOT official lobbying against your rights while being paid by your hard earned tax dollars.

* VDOT is using the practice of inverse condemnation to devalue property, not act on it for lengthy periods during which period nothing can be done to the land, effectively taking it off the market, so that it can then buy the land for a fraction of its original worth. This not only rips off the families who often have owned the land for decades, but also is a backdoor subsidization of the project, hitting the family twice — once for its annual taxes to the Commonwealth and taking its property on the cheap.

* VDOT has attached Fiscal Impact Statements to eminent domain bills for years, a clear conflict of interest! This has unfairly condemned bills to failure. Furthermore, each FIS is nothing more than speculation. More than that, the cost of land acquisitions is the cost of doing business, just as are costs radio advertising or gas. Does VDOT file an FIS on its fuel vendors?

* By its own admission, through its Fiscal Impact Statements, VDOT admits it has ripped off the Virginia taxpayers for years by refusing to pay fair value. If there is a fiscal impact on purchasing property, the General Assembly could not have passed the eminent domain reform law in 2007, much less the Property Rights Amendment to the Constitution. VDOT’s actions equate to an attitude that property owners only rent their property until VDOT needs it.

* VDOT has a budget of land acquisitions. If it needs more money, it needs to seek it – not take people’s property cheaply.

* VDOT employees lobby the General Assembly at taxpayer expense to hold down just compensation for families’ lands — a double blow against the citizens of Virginia who effectively are compelled to pay government employees to lobby against their fundamental rights!

VDOT is a menace to Virginians in every region of the Commonwealth, urban or suburban, of all socio-economic means. It is up to the General Assembly to reign in VDOT! Click here to ask members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-committee to vote for SB 194 tomorrow!

Forward the video to about the 25:30 mark to hear a VDOT official lobby this Senate committee against SB 194, trying to deny your rights while being paid by the hard earned tax dollars you send to Richmond!

Federal Judge Decision To Redefine Marriage In Virginia More Of Political Show Than Legal Decision

As we're sure that you are aware by now, a federal judge in Norfolk, assisted by our newly-elected Attorney General, has ruled that Virginia's Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. This judge ignored the will of more than a million Virginia voters who ratified the Marriage Amendment by more than 57 percent in 2006, as well as ignoring the state's interest in protecting a timeless institution designed for the well-being of children. The timing of Judge Arenda Wright-Allen's decision, rushed for release last night just prior to Valentine's Day, reeks of political show, making her ruling less a legal argument and more a press release. It's disappointing that a federal judge would so blatantly expose her personal political agenda at the expense of not just marriage, but our entire social fabric.

The question is, what can you do to help?

Please consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. It is imperative that the voices of those who believe in natural marriage are heard above the din of talking heads and commentators who will revel in this judge's decision.

Our e-mail system allows you to write a letter online and then it will send it to the editor of your local paper with the click of a button. You don't need to look up e-mail addresses or editors' names . . . it couldn't be much easier.

We have included some talking points that you can use when crafting your letter below. For more background, here is a link to an op-ed TFF President Victoria Cobb wrote in last Sunday's Richmond Times-Dispatch. Please put these into your own words and send your letter off right away. It is too easy to think, "I will do it later" and never get around to it. Thank you for taking action and standing for marriage!

» One federal judge should not disenfranchise the votes of more than one million Virginians.

» The state's only primary interest in marriage has always been the well-being of children, not the love-lives of adults.

» Social science proves that children do best in a home with a mom and a dad.

» Judge Wright-Allen has politicized her decision by rushing it out the night before Valentine's Day.

» The decision by the judge on the issue of marriage is not based on any of the facts of the case, any of the evidence presented in hearings, or any of the truth surrounding the state's interest in marriage.

» This decision will open the door for polygamy and other forms of "marriage" which will continue to degrade the God-ordained institution of marriage.

» Freedom of religion and speech are already being threatened in states that have recognized same-sex "marriage."

» Attorney General Mark Herring took the unprecedented step of siding with the plaintiffs in this case against the Virginia Constitution he took an oath to uphold.

Fate Of The Marriage Amendment To Be Determined "Soon"

The Family Foundation was joined yesterday morning in Norfolk by Concerned Women for America, FRC Action and hundreds of Christians from churches across Eastern Virginia as we stood up in support of marriage, the Virginia Constitution and in solidarity with the brave and principled attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom was in court officially representing the Clerk of the Court of Prince William County, Michele McQuigg, a former member of the House of Delegates, who is seeking affirmation of the Marriage Amendment in her position, which is charged with issuing marriage licenses. Oral arguments for the challenge to the Marriage Amendment were heard with U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, who promised to make a timely ruling, and said, "You'll be hearing from me soon."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs asserted the amendment, passed by 57 percent of Virginia's voters, was unconstitutional, arguing marriage was a fundamental right and that the institution was not ultimately about children but was instead a symbol of freedom, comparing same-sex marriage to marriage allowed only among freed slaves. Attorney General Mark Herring attended the hearing to watch his solicitor general argue on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued the government's interest in marriage is in the upbringing of children by a mother and a father and that there exist no constitutional grounds or precedent to change the law to allow for homosexual unions. Its attorney skillfully outlined how marriage is the one and only relationship that is absolutely essential to the future of humanity. In yet another attempt of the liberal left to redefine beyond recognition an important term, plaintiffs actually stood before the judge and stated that "same-sex couples pro-create."

Outside the hearing, traditional marriage supporters held a rally as well as a news conference that included Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb, Josh Duggar from FRC Action, Alison Howard from Concerned Women for America, and Bishop E.W. Jackson of S.T.A.N.D. Supporters of natural marriage numbered in the hundreds, while only a dozen people supporting same-sex marriage protested outside.

Of course the media's coverage was predictably skewed. For a real representation of what happened, see the video and picture below. More photos from the rally can be seen on our Facebook page. Then, please follow this link and sign the petition asking Attorney General Mark Herring to do his job and defend the Virginia Constitution!

The real news.

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From left, Josh Duggar of FRC Action and a star of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting; The Family Foundation's Victoria Cobb; Alison Howard from Concerned Women for America; and Bishop E.W. Jackson of S.T.A.N.D. 

Major Property Rights Vote In Senate Courts Committee Tomorrow!

Last week I wrote about the need to support SB 194, a bill to protect property owners from inverse condemnation, a technique that subverts the Property Rights Amendment to the Virginia Constitution voters ratified in 2012 with 75 percent of the vote. On Monday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee considered the bill and asked for a clarifying amendment from its patron, Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg). Tomorrow, the committee will vote on the final version. While the “body language” of committee members of both parties seemed favorable, nothing is guaranteed when the bill actually comes up for a vote. The opposition, which includes environmentalists, big money special interests such as utilities and railroads, local government and VDOT – the same unholy coalition that fought the Property Rights Amendment for eight years – is fighting this bill just as hard.

Why? Because this bill will shut down their backdoor subversion of the Property Rights Amendment, “inverse condemnation,” which skirts the prohibition on eminent domain. It is especially galling that local governments and

Here’s what government agencies now do: when it needs land, it publicly announces its intention to take land for “development rights” or for “conservation easements.” However, the agencies don’t make an offer for the land. Meanwhile, the property instantly loses massive value. It’s called “condemnation blight.”

The property owner can’t sell it to anyone, because the land can’t be developed. The government agency can take its time – often years – until the property is so cheap, its compensation to the owners for the taking is a fraction of what it once was worth. This is a backdoor method of making taxpayers subsidize government!

SB 194 will protect property values by allowing the owner to get compensation for what the land was worth at the beginning of the condemnation process and to receive just legal expenses in these indirect takings, just as owners do who have their land taken by conventional eminent domain. Often, property owners are intimidated from going to court for fear of expensive court costs.

Please click here for members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

 

Bills To Prevent Abusive Backdoor Eminent Domain In House And Senate Committees Monday!

On Monday in Richmond, lawmakers in each chamber will consider bills to curb a backdoor way government agencies now are using to subvert out recently passed Property Rights Amendment to the Virginia Constitution. The House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee will consider HB 738 and the full Senate Courts of Justice Committee will consider SB 194, bills designed to protect property owners from inverse condemnation. Virginians ratified the Property Rights Amendment with 75 percent of the vote in 2012. It is a shame that after such a massive victory for families and for liberty from big government, we still must fight eminent domain abuse. But the hideous procedure of inverse condemnation circumvents the Property Rights Amendment, which prohibits many instances of eminent domain abuse and guarantees fair compensation in cases where a government taking is necessary.

Here's what VDOT and other government agencies now do: When it needs land, it publicly announces its intention to take land for "development rights" or for "conservation easements." However, the agencies don't make an offer for the land. Meanwhile, the property instantly loses massive value.

The property owner can’t sell it to anyone, because nothing can be done to the land. The government agency can take its time — often years — until the property is so cheap, its compensation to the owners for the taking is a fraction of what it once was worth. This is a backdoor method of making taxpayers subsidize government!

The perfect example of this is the Bi-County Parkway in Prince William and Loudon Counties. There, the Virginia Department of Transportation forced conservation easements on all property owners, even though every property owner has written their opposition to their properties' inclusion as easements.

The bills will protect property values by allowing the owner to get compensation for what the land was worth at the beginning of the process. They also dovetail with the Property Rights Amendment's language that allows property owners to receive just legal expenses in these indirect takings, just as owners do who have their land taken by conventional eminent domain. Often, property owners are intimidated from going to court for fear of expensive court costs.

Please click here for members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee. Ask the delegates to support Delegate Scott Lingamfelter's HB 738 Monday afternoon.

Please click here for members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. Ask the senators to support Senator Dick Black's SB 194 Monday morning.

Sign The Petition: Attorney General Herring, Defend Our Laws!

Last Thursday, January 23rd, Attorney General Mark Herring, after less than two weeks in office, made an unprecedented announcement: Not only would he not defend the Virginia Marriage Amendment, but he would join the plaintiffs in suing the Commonwealth of Virginia. On top of that, he refused to appoint outside counsel, as he is allowed and budgeted to do in cases where he has a conflict or profound disagreement. It is an unprecedented move to fight against the law, and against your own citizens, on behalf of those who are suing the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, Attorney General Herring apparently is content to let his clients — the citizens of Virginia — be without a legal defense. This is unheard of in the legal profession and violates the Bar's code of professional conduct and ethics. It is akin to a defense lawyer telling a court at the beginning of a trial that he refuses to give his client the defense he deserves and has paid for, and will join the prosecution.

In response to Attorney General Mark Herring's subversion of the will of 57 percent of Virginians who voted to add the Marriage Amendment to the Virginia Constitution, we are asking citizens of Virginia to join us as we petition the Attorney General to honor the Rule of Law. It is imperative we, as citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, express our concern for Attorney General Herring's neglect of duty and disregard for the law. We cannot allow our elected officials to bow to the will of special interests and cherry-pick the Constitution of Virginia.

Please click here and sign the petition, then encourage your family and friends to do the same.

 

Important Proposed Constitutional Amendment To Limit Taxes And Size Of Government In Senate Committee Tomorrow!

Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m., the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee will consider a proposed constitutional amendment to limit government growth and taxation. HJ 594 is a taxpayer bill of rights that limits the amount of money the state government can spend in a year to the preceding year's total, plus no more than a percentage increase based on the rate of inflation and population growth. Patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond), the resolution cleared the House earlier this session, and is a vital measure to limit the size of government. Although the Virginia Constitution requires a balanced budget, it does not prescribe certain methods that the General Assembly may use to achieve it. Politicians in years past, as well as this year, have pushed hard for big tax increases to cover their even bigger spending ideas. The annual transportation debate is a perfect example. A constitutional cap on how much of our money they can spend will force them, finally, to prioritize their spending decisions each year instead of going to the well of Virginia families' hard-earned money.

When general fund revenue rises 19 percent, as it did in January, and we are running annual surpluses, there should not be a need to raise taxes for core functions of government. Governments rarely have revenue problems. They have spending problems. If they can’t draw the line on what's too much, we taxpayers, their bosses, will do it for them.

Please contact your senator on the Privileges and Elections Committee and urge him or her to vote yes on this important constitutional reform to limit the size and scope of state government.

Does Religious Freedom Matter Anymore?

On this date in 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted one of the most important initiatives in our nation's history — the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom. Today, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation celebrating the Statute and Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) and Delegate Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover) gave speeches in their respective chambers to bring attention to this day. This amendment to our state constitution was the foundation for our First Freedom as defined in the U.S. Constitution a few years later. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson — it is one of the three accomplishments for which he wanted to be remembered and engraved on his tombstone; the others being author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the University of Virginia — the Statute recognizes that our right to exercise our faith

. . . can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.

It adds:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

As attacks on the religious liberty of Americans continue to grow, it is important to remember the real meaning of the term and take the opportunity to educate our friends and neighbors who may be buying into some of the secular left’s notion of "separation of church and state." For example, we often call our First Freedom a "constitutional right to religious freedom," but the reality is that this freedom comes from God and is simply to be protected by the constitution; it doesn't come from our constitution.

It is important to note that we have the freedom to be involved in "civil capacities" and express our "opinions in matters of religion" in these capacities. This is particularly important to remember as the radical secular left in Virginia has attacked us for our support of pro-life and pro-family legislation as a violation of "separation," something that flies in the face not just of the Statute but over 230 years of American history. This is not only our right, it's our duty.

This year, we are supporting initiatives that we hope will restore the real meaning of Jefferson's Statute. One, an amendment to the state constitution by Senator Stanley — working with Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax) — would seek to reestablish our rights as citizens to pray at public government meetings, a longstanding tradition that the secular left has sought to stop, successfully in many cases, throughout Virginia.

Of course, one major threat to the freedom of all Americans is the federal government's mandate that citizens fund the birth control of others through President Obama's health insurance scheme, a mandate that is currently being challenged in nearly 30 lawsuits across the nation. While the secular left and abortion industry call this mandate about "access" to birth control, the truth is that it requires a redefinition of the word "access" to mean "paid for by somebody else at the expense of their freedom of conscience."

Hands Off My Home, My Church, My Business: Be A Founder And End Eminent Domain Abuse, Vote YES On Question 1!

The proposed state constitutional amendment to protect Virginians from the abuse of eminent domain is the most important Virginia Constitutional amendment to limit government power before the voters in years. Ratifying it with a YES vote tomorrow will limit the size, power and scope of state and local government. A government that knows no bounds in taking property can take anything, including  the freedom to worship, to work and to live. Opponents of the amendment have made so many absurd accusations about the amendment's affects, if passed, it's hardly worth dignifying them. One, in a Washington Post editorial recently, said it would be "corporate welfare." Wrong! Corporate welfare is what we have now, with local governments taking private property on the cheap and giving it to developers to build big box stores and malls.

In the same breath, we're told by local governments that the amendment will stifle economic development, for the very reason it won't be able to provide the real corporate welfare (i.e., it won't be able to take land and turn it over cheaply to rich corporations). Isn't government supposed to be the guardian of the little guy? In fact, the best way to spur economic development is to ensure that risk takers and job creators will be able to develop and build their own businesses on their own land without the fear that one day the government will seize it for something it determines will be of better use.

Perhaps the most incredible charge is that the amendment will force higher taxes. Huh? That's a rich argument coming from local governments, which can't wait to hit its citizens with every new fee and tax it can conjure up. All of sudden, these governing bodies, which use our tax dollars as is to lobby against our interests and rights at the General Assembly, are concerned with our tax burden. They claim the amendment's just compensation clause will drive up the costs of acquiring land when a taking truly is necessary. So, what local governments are admitting is that have been cheating their citizens all these years by not paying them the true worth of their lands! In truth, this amendment will make governments choose their projects wisely, prioritize and hold down costs.

The amendment will do four things, only one of which is in the current statute — which itself can be watered down by a future General Assembly if not protected by the strength of the constitutional amendment:

1. It elevates owning property a "fundamental right" which is an elevated status of law in court. It gives the citizen more protection and the condemning authority a higher standard of proof.

2. It offers just compensation, not only for the land taken (barely covered in current Virginia law), but also compensation for lost business expenses and profit, as well as for lost access to a business in the cases where the government alters a property's entrance which causes the loss of business.

3. It allows only for the taking of such land that is needed. This prevents local governments and state agencies from taking excess land for a project and sitting on it then selling it later for a profit, leaving the landowner in the cold.

4. Most importantly, the amendment will prohibit the taking of land for anything other than a true public use — a school or a road, for example — something that the entire public needs and can use, and prohibits the taking of land to give to a private entity. It protects farmers, suburban land owners, small and family business owners, churches (which don't pay taxes and whose properties are jealously eyed by economic development departments always looking to increase tax revenue to grow government), to the inner city home owners, who too often have been victimized by displacement by redevelopment and housing authorities that think they know better what to do with the homes than the owners.

This amendment is important and fundamental to our rights. Virginia's Founders — Madison, Jefferson, Henry, Mason, Washington — enshrined property rights as a basic right of liberty to own property without fear of its confiscation by a despotic government. Unfortunately, over the decades, it's been stripped out. Here is a rare opportunity to restore our liberties and for generations to come, a chance to be a Founder of sorts.

Here are two short videos. In one, Bob Wilson, President of Central Radio in Norfolk, who is being hounded by the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority to give up his business for an Old Dominion University commercial plaza, explains the injustice of eminent domain. In the second, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, explains his support of the amendment, what it does and why its ratification Election Day is important (see Virginia Social Conservative Blog).

Vote For Question 1! New Ad, Editorials In Favor Of Property Rights Amendment!

On November 6, Virginians have a lot of important decisions to make at the ballot box. There are choices for President, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In some cities, there will be choices for mayor, city council and school board. But there is another important decision to make that does not involve a candidate: Virginians will have an opportunity to amend the Virginia Constitution to protect private property rights. Protecting private property rights has become an urgent and priority issue for The Family Foundation and other concerned organizations since 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court incredibly ruled in Kelo v. New London, Conn. that the U.S. Constitution did not protect one's private property rights in the case of a taking by a locality. (Funny, other protections, such as free speech, seem to trump state and local laws.)

Since then, state after state has enacted constitutional protections. Virginia, meanwhile, dragged its feet for seven years as the General Assembly, session after session, found ways to deny and delay its citizens' the opportunity to speak on this vital issue — and by the trick of a parliamentary maneuver came within a vote of killing it again this year.

Property rights are vital because without the guarantee of private property, there is no check on government's ability to grow in size or power. Without private property, you have nowhere from which to speak, worship or work. Without it, government is unchecked in its ability to do anything it wants, including taking property only after you have increased the value of it, as has happened time after time across Virginia.

The amendment specifically prohibits what happened in Connecticut — perhaps the most blatant abuse of governmental power in recent years — when New London took private property (in this case homes) and not only did not use it for a public purpose, such as a school or road, but gave the homes to a private company!  New London said the company could do something better with the property and create more tax revenue for the city. It's always about revenue to the government, isn't it?

So, who could be against this amendment? Precisely! Local governments, which use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights. They claim this amendment will prohibit economic development. That's a peculiar argument because securing private property is the best way to promote economic development. What entrepreneur wants to build a business if he or she knows the city or county will decide it can do something better with that land and take it for themselves?

Only local government can think this way because local government bureaucrats think their job is to run their county or city as their own powerful, controlling entity, and not as stewards of your money and rights. This amendment — which among its guarantees provides that government can only take the amount of land it needs when it truly has a public use; and that it must provide just compensation for that land, including for lost access to the property and for lost business profit — will be a necessary brake on that attitude. It will foster true economic growth by guaranteeing property rights as well as limiting government power. It will be another stroke for the liberty intended for us by the Founding Fathers.

We urge a vote for Question 1, to protect our basic liberty and rights to own property and to check the growth and power of government.

We're not alone. The amendment was put on the ballot by a bipartisan vote in the General Assembly. A coalition of organizations, including The Family Foundation, The Virginia Farm Bureau, Americans for Prosperity, The Virginia Agribusiness Council, Virginia Forestry Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and the Virginia Property Rights Coalition all are working hard for its ratification. In addition, two major papers, which typically have different editorial views, recently endorsed Question 1: The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

Click on the image to hear this radio ad by the Virginia Farm Bureau. Then spread the word about Question 1, Virginia's Property Rights Amendment, by sharing this post, logo and radio spot!

There has only been one public poll released on Question 1, and it was done by Public Policy Polling, a Democrat polling firm based in North Carolina. While its results were favorable, it is from September and the local government opposition has been working in high gear ever since. (The Castle Coalition, a national property rights group, has a take on the poll here.)

Perhaps the biggest opponent of the amendment is unawareness. With the presidential and senate campaigns sucking up all the political oxygen this fall, most Virginians are not aware the question is on the ballot. When they find out, they are supportive. So the mission is to get the word out! Above is a radio ad released yesterday by The Farm Bureau. Please share it and this link with as many people as you can by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. After seven years, this is our one and only chance to protect our property rights in Virginia and to further secure our liberty and restrain government growth and power.

Do It Today: Register To Vote!

With this election being one of the most important in our lifetimes, it is imperative that pro-life, pro-family Virginians register to vote, make an informed decision and cast their ballots on November 6. Just as other demographic groups are mobilizing, Christians should fully participate in faithful citizenship in our representative democracy. It is our Christian duty to fully participate in our country's future.

But while Election Day is less than a month away, today is the deadline to register to vote! 

If you are not registered to vote, or know of people who are not — members of your church, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors — use and share this information. Too much is at stake in this election. Know the issues. Educate others. Register to vote and cast your ballot! You can learn more at The Family Foundation Action's voter education site, vavotes.net.

If you haven't already done so, register to vote today! If your friends, family, and neighbors haven’t yet registered and are eligible, let them know that today is the deadline! Won't you take a few minutes out of your day today to download a form, fill it out and ensure it is postmarked by today? Or forward this information to others and encourage them to register? Or even go in person to your local registrar, library or DMV, and maybe take someone with you for such a crucial election that will impact not only our future, but our present? It's simple:

To register to vote, click this link to visit the Virginia State Board of Elections website, print the form that will appear and get it postmarked by today; or go by your local registrar's office, public library or DMV to pick up a voter registration form. Click here for more information.

Then encourage others to do so: Forward them this link via e-mail or post it on your social media sites. But please be sure to register to vote, then cast your ballot. If you are not available to vote on November 6, you can vote in advance (click here to learn more).

For the time being, though, be sure to register to vote. Then examine the candidates for all offices: President, U.S. Senate, House of Representative, and any local offices that may be on the ballot in your city, county or town, as well as the all-important ratification vote to secure your property rights from eminent domain in the Virginia Constitution. Click here to view our 2012 Voter Guide to learn which candidates will take responsibility for the issues that face our nation today and best reflect your foundational Judeo-Christian principles.

General Assembly Votes to Ensure Judicial Integrity

Tuesday morning with the clock approaching 2:00, the House of Delegates voted to not appoint to a judgeship Tracy Thorne-Begland (see roll call vote). After spending more than twelve hours debating and voting on budget amendments and discussing issues in their respective caucuses, retired military members of the House led the charge during debate over Mr. Thorne-Begland, expressing serious concerns over his actions while a member of the U.S. Military. As we posted late last week, Mr. Thorne-Begland has a long history of political activism and received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy after going on national television to announce that he had violated federal law, the so-called "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy enthusiastically signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in the early 1990s. More recently, he has made public statements that reveal a personal political agenda that runs contrary to the Virginia Constitution and statute. Many of these concerns did not come to light until after he had been deemed qualified to be a judge by the General Assembly's Courts of Justice Committees.

Today, Virginia Democrats and Equality Virginia lashed out at General Assembly members and The Family Foundation for last night’s votes. Unable to answer the concerns about Mr. Thorne-Begland’s statements, they have predictably resorted to name-calling. Democrat Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran said:

It is difficult to consider last night's vote without using the word "bigoted," just as it's difficult to consider this period of unified Republican government without using the word "disaster.”

Senator Donald McEachin (D-8, Richmond), who put forth Mr. Thorne-Begland's name to be a judge in the first place, said:

The GOP took Virginia back to the bigotry and mean-spirited prejudice of the 1960s.

Delegate Mark D. Sickles, (D-43, Fairfax) said in a statement:

And, it shows that legislators are more concerned about the Family Foundation scorecard than Richmond's District Court.

Equality Virginia also took aim at The Family Foundation, saying:

(The legislature) allowed fear mongering and shrill personal attacks by the Family Foundation … to derail Richmond lawyer Tracy Thorne-Begland’s election to the bench simply because he is an out gay man.

Of course, our position since this was first brought to our attention last week has been concern about public statements and political activity, and a violation of the military oath, that demonstrate a willingness to put a personal political agenda above all else. That was our concern. On Friday, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) also announced public concerns over the nomination and spoke in opposition to it during last night's debate.

Former military members of the House of Delegates, led by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge), Rich Anderson (R-51, Woodbridge) and Mark Dudenhefer (R-2, Stafford), spoke passionately during the House floor debate about their concern over Thorne-Begland’s violation of his military oath. Each made the case that the real issues here concerned integrity, truth, duty and an oath of office. The integrity of the courts was at stake with this vote, they argued.

Several legislators worked for several days to bring to light the concerns over this nomination. We thank each of those legislators who worked both behind the scenes and took strong public stands in the face of vile attacks by liberals.

As has been the case almost since the day after conservatives won majorities in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate in November, Virginia liberals have been on the rhetorical attack. Regardless of the issue, they resort to mean-spirited name-calling, misinformation and bullying. They redefine issues and assert false motivations to their opponents. After losing election after election, you would think Virginia's Left would finally figure out that they are on the wrong side of these issues, but with the help of some in the Mainstream Media and the editorial pages, they continue to attack pro-family legislators simply for standing up for the truth. Their hope is, of course, that Virginians will be bullied into silence on these important issues.

The General Assembly is tasked with reviewing and certifying judges. If that is little more than a rubber stamp, it means nothing. It has a duty to block judges deemed unqualified or unfit for the bench. Last night, legislators simply did their job.

Candidate Kaine's Marriage "Pirouette"

North Carolinians overwhelmingly voted one week ago to define marriage as between one man and one woman in their state constitution. The same day, Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine was asked about his position on the issue. Kaine’s answer was anything but clear. In fact, his obfuscation led the National Journal to label his attempted response “policy pirouettes" (see Shane Goldmacher at Hotline On Call blog). Kaine said:

The number one issue is should committed couples have the same legal rights and responsibilities and the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. I believe in the legal equality of relationships. Is it marriage, is it civil unions, is it domestic partners? I kind of let that one go.

The crowd and reporters kept pressing, but Kaine remained steadfastly vague. His remarkable press session is chronicled here at the Washington Post's Virginia Politics Blog by Ben Pershing.

In 2006, then Governor Kaine publicly opposed Virginia’s marriage amendment, going so far as to campaign against the measure that eventually passed with 57 percent of the vote. Just a few months before, while a candidate for Governor, Kaine gave The Family Foundation Action the following response to a candidate survey question about the measure:

I have long supported Virginia law that declares marriage to be between a man and a woman, and I support a Constitutional amendment.

Incredibly, just days after being sworn in as governor, Kaine reversed his support for the ballot measure and urged the General Assembly to keep it off the ballot. (The legislation calling for the measure passed the 2005 General Assembly but had to pass again in 2006 to be placed on the ballot.)

At one point during the press availability last week, Kaine indicated that "marriage" is little more than a label, saying, "I think the labels actually get in the way of the issue."

But marriage isn't the only issue on which Kaine has shifted since running for governor in 2005. Relatedly, at that time, he told The Family Foundation and the media that he opposed homosexual couples adopting, but supported Virginia law allowing homosexual individuals to adopt. Late in his administration, however, he introduced a regulation that would have prohibited child placement agencies from considering homosexual behavior at all when choosing parents for adoption. Last year, he said that unmarried homosexual couples should be able to adopt if a judge determined it was in the best interest of the child (contrary to the Virginia Constitution and statute).

One has to wonder why Kaine continues to dodge the question if opinions on the issue of marriage are shifting — as constantly asserted as fact by same-sex marriage supporters and mainstream media. Of course, while progressives insist that Americans are shifting in their opinion on the definition of marriage, they are 0-31 when it comes to marriage amendments at the ballot box. Candidate Kaine knows that.

Conveniently in 2005, Kaine invoked his Catholic faith in response to his position on the death penalty. No mention of Church teaching on this issue. Hmmm. Our guess, however, is that whatever he says on the issue while on the campaign trail doesn't really matter. History has proven that Tim Kaine's position is likely to change as soon as Election Day is over.

Property Rights Fight Flashback

As a reminder of just how tough the fight for the most basic right to protect private property was over the last seven years, view this short video of then and now Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) — from 2007. Even though the resolution that year (HJ 723, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell), made it to the Senate floor, it failed to pass because of the efforts by Senator Saslaw and others. Six sessions later, in 2012, he still "didn't think property rights belonged in the constitution."

The parliamentary gimmick employed in the video was one of many used throughout the years. It was tried this year, as well, and almost worked (more about that in a future post). The truly galling aspect to this is that in 2011, in an election year, Senator Saslaw and several opponents voted for the resolution and it passed the Senate 35-5. Of course, with it on the line and three more years until the next Senate election, he and the others reverted to form and nearly defeated it in the crucial second-year vote all constitutional amendments must pass.

Senator Saslaw, local government and special interests for seven years doomed property rights protections. The wall of resistance broke the last two years. Saslaw: "I don't believe property rights belong in the Constitution." Guess he never heard of Mason, Madison, Henry or Jefferson and that they put them in our original Constitution. 

Proposed Adoption Regulations Contrary To Virginia Law And Constitution; Clarifying Where We Now Stand In Process

Just two months before leaving office, former Governor Tim Kaine left Virginians an unwanted present in the form of proposed changes to adoption guidelines for private agencies (see the Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). These proposed regulations — by a Social Services Board still dominated by Mr.Kaine's appointees — slowly working their way through the process, seek to force private adoption agencies to place children in foster care or for adoption with parents irrespective of faith or sexual orientation. It would force faith-based adoption agencies to either abandon their principles or cease providing adoption services (as did Catholic Charities in Massachusetts, after more than 100 years, when that state's Supreme Court imposed such regulations by judicial fiat). The proposal under discussion here goes far beyond any policy currently in Virginia law. The Virginia Code clearly details who is eligible to adopt. In § 63.2-1201.1, it plainly states:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit any child to have more than two living parents by birth or adoption, who have legal rights and obligations in respect to the child, in the form of one father and one mother.

There is no mistaking Virginia's intent. The current regulatory proposal, which includes prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, contradicts the intent of the General Assembly.

Nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, whether enshrined in law or implemented through internal constructs, and regardless of their legal weight, highlight the inevitable and unavoidable clash between the unalienable fundamental right of religious liberty and the postmodern era of sexual freedom. While one may agree or disagree with the actions of individuals or private organizations that express their faith in these ways, their fundamental right to do so is at risk with these proposed regulations. Faith-based family organizations have assisted children for decades without unnecessary intervention by government entities. It is very clear that homosexual special interest groups have no concern with preserving religious liberty in pursuit of their political agenda.

Upon learning about these proposed regulations weeks ago, The Family Foundation immediately contacted the governor's office. At that time, we were assured that Governor McDonnell does not support the current non-discrimination proposal and the current proposal would not stand. To ensure our voice was known where it needed to be, we submitted our official public comment and encouraged pastors to do so as well. After the public comment period closed, Governor Bob McDonnell publicly weighed in, telling the Washington Post:

I know I had said during the campaign that I would essentially keep our adoption laws — which I think are good — the way they are now. … I don’t think we ought to force Catholic Charities to make [the proposed regulations] part of their policy or other similar situated groups. Many of our adoption agencies are faith-based groups that ought to be able to establish what their own policies are. Current regulations that say you can't discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin I think are proper.

Since then, concern has mounted based on the circulation of incorrect information stating Governor McDonnell must act by April 15. However, this is an incorrect interpretation of a section of the Code (§ 2.2-4013) that details the time frame for the Notice of Intended Regulatory Action stage, not the proposed stage. The public comment website shows that the adoption regulations are completing the proposed stage, not the NOIRA stage.

A chart published by the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget is extremely helpful in understanding how the circuitous regulatory process works: The proposed adoption regulations currently are in the bottom box of the middle column (not the second box of the first column). Correct reading of Virginia Code and regulatory process shows that the Board of Social Services has no less than 15 and no more than 180 days from April 1 (April 16 through September 28) to adopt the proposed regulations and submit them for full executive branch review. As displayed in column three of DPB's chart, the proposed regulations must then pass several more reviews prior to final acceptance, including reviews by DPB, the corresponding cabinet secretary, possibly by the attorney general (see Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's stated disapproval in the Washington Post) and the governor, then go through at least one more public comment period. The Department of Social Services already has amended the regulations and will present these changes to the Board of Social Services at an upcoming meeting. During any of these stages, the governor can reject or make changes to the proposal.

This adoption proposal, which tramples religious liberty, is a significant overreach through regulation into uncharted waters prohibited by Virginia Code and Virginia Constitution and will not be tolerated. The Family Foundation has been actively involved in seeing that these proposed regulations are not adopted and will continue to monitor the issue very closely.

Update: Senate Passes Property Rights Constitutional Amendment!

A couple of hours ago, the Virginia Senate passed by a 35-5 vote, a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would protect private property rights and curb the government's power of eminent domain. Don't be deceived by the vote. Often, at the General Assembly, legislation with the largest vote margins were the most difficult to pass, with twists and turns, near-deaths, deaths and resurrections. All could be said of this resolution. While it does not have the iron clad language on just compensation as it did coming out of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, ironically, it still goes beyond the House version and does guarantee just compensation for "lost profits" and "lost access" — but it leaves it to the General Assembly to legislate those definitions (which means more work to be done next session!).

Now the resolution goes back to the House of Delegates since it was changed from its version. Acceptance of the Senate's amendments is almost a certainty, with House members openly eager and excited about the opportunity to vote on something given little chance in the hostile Senate when session started, and stronger than when it left the House! (No need to risk going to a conference committee, especially after the Senate has killed attempts for years, including earlier this year.) Just goes to show . . . anything can happen at the General Assembly and nothing should surprise anyone.

Opponents will say they got what they wanted out of it but the truth is they wanted none of this. They lost. Liberty and limited government won today! Never underestimate the influence of an election year. This played out similarly to the eminent domain reform statute the last time the Senate was up for election, in 2007.

Next steps: The resolution must be passed again by the new General Assembly next session — with no changes. That done, it will go to Virginians to ratify at the polls in November 2012.

More to come later. However, we cannot go any further without a bit of thanks — a bit, only, because it is impossible to adequately thank him — to the resolution's patron, Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth). Without his determination, legislative skills and persuasive public oratory (we will have video later), we would very likely have to wait another three years (for a total of nine) without the possibility of property rights protection since the infamous and deplorable Supreme Court Kelo decision.

Senate Property Rights Vote Delayed; Contact Your Senator If You Already Haven't!

I was hoping to write about a smashing, never-in-a-million-years-possible victory on property rights protection tonight; about  how we were one step closer to enshrinement that fundamental right into the Virginia Constitution. However, the Senate delayed the vote on HJ 693 (Delegate Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth) until tomorrow. This one day delay gives you another chance to contact your senator, if you have not already done so, and ask him or her to vote to ensure this basic, fundamental right: To own property — for family, business or farm, or any legal reason — and not fear the government's power of eminent domain, where it can take it and hand it over to a corporation because it can produce more tax revenue than your house or business. The right to own property, and be justly compensated for it if a true public need requires a government taking, is a requisite tool to preserve individual liberty and curb the growth and intrusiveness of government. It also is a matter of basic fairness: Some localities in the past have taken entire neighborhoods on the pretext that one or two houses were "blighted" and sold to developers for huge amounts of money.

We strongly urge you to contact your senator now. It will be a close, but winnable vote. This is historic — the Virginia Senate has not taken up such a measure in recent memory. People who believe that government has become too big in size and scope now must take only a few moments to click below and make their voices heard to their elected representatives. This is our moment. If this vote fails, we will have to wait at least three more years for the opportunity to vote at the ballot box for a state constitutional amendment to guarantee this precious and God-given right.

We cannot let this opportunity to get meaningful protections fail. For the longest time the Virginia Senate has been a roadblock, but tonight we are on the doorstep of a historic victory. Securing private property rights ensures stable families, jobs, farms and even the right to worship freely. Let's beat back the special interests and local governments once and for all and ask your senator to represent you, not government.

Politicians come and go. The courts are unpredictable. The only permanent protections of our rights are those in the Virginia and U.S. Constitutions. Please act to ensure them now.

Contact your senator by e-mail.

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Learn who your senator is.

Breaking News: HJ 693, Property Rights Passes Committee 8-7! Close Vote Expected On Floor!

Today was one for the ages. A long shot priority piece of legislation, HJ 693, a property rights constitutional amendment patroned by Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth), passed in sub-committee and full committee! Within the last few hours, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 8-7 to report the resolution to the full Senate. Joining all six committee Republicans were Democrats Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath). Now that it is on the Senate floor, we urgently need you to contact your senator and ask him or her to vote for HJ 693 to ensure the fundamental fairness of property rights and just compensation when your property is taken for a legitimate public use. Property rights are fundamental to our liberty, and to ensuring our family life, our jobs and businesses, and even our places of worship. Strong property protections limit government growth and intrusiveness. Now we are closer than ever — the first time in six years since the U.S. Supreme Court's deplorable Kelo decision — to getting these rights enshrined in the Virginia Constitution.

It is very close, but very winnable, so we cannot let this opportunity to get meaningful protections fail. For the longest time the Virginia Senate has been a roadblock, but tonight we are on the doorstep!

Today, in both committees, about a dozen special interests lined up: Utilities and big corporations, and local governments and housing authorities (who use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights) lobbied relentlessly for the right to take your property for reasons other than true public uses. But a committee majority bravely listened to the people and now we have a real chance to see this resolution passed by the General Assembly and on the ballot for Virginians to vote on.

But we need you to act NOW!

The full Senate may vote on this as early as tomorrow and most likely Thursday. Now that we've come this far in the Senate, don't let the special interests win by your inaction! Please take a short moment to contact your senator and ask him or her to vote for HJ 693!

Your voice matters! Please act now on this Family Foundation priority legislation!

Six years is long enough! Urge your senator to vote for HJ 693 on the Senate floor so that we can finally have the constitutional protections for our private property rights that other states have!

Click here for your senator's e-mail address.

Click here for your senator's General Assembly phone number.