federal courts

Constitutional Protections At Stake Friday Morning In House P&E

Tomorrow morning, the House Privileges and Elections Committee will consider a number of important constitutional amendments. Please contact committee members at the link above and encourage a vote for all three resolutions. One, HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), will safeguard Virginians' tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases in the budget bill. If those revenues are needed, delegates and senators should have the courage to vote on tax increases separately, up or down, not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function.

Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania) has two resolutions before the committee. One, HJ 540, will limit the amount state and local government can spend each year to the previous year’s budget, plus the percentage increase in population and inflation. This is a proven way to limit the size and scope of government. His second resolution, HJ 539, would require a super majority vote by the General Assembly and local governing boards to impose a tax increase.

The fourth resolution, and a major priority by several limited government advocates, is HJ 647, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville). It passed sub-committee by one vote and its full committee vote was delayed a week. In committee and behind the scenes, local government interests, who use taxpayers' hard-earned money to lobby against their own citizens, and large utilities and telecoms, are throwing every resource they have to defeat this proposal. Afraid of allowing Virginians to vote on the issue of protecting their own property, these special interests think property is private only until such time as they need it for their redevelopment schemes or transportation boondoggles. No less than 10 government and corporate special interests testified against the resolution in sub-committee, with only The Family Foundation, The Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council speaking in favor.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its deplorable Kelo decision several years ago (see Examiner.com's Kenneth Schortgen for a new, heinous eminent domain case), it said federal courts could not protect property owners from local and state governments. But it did rule that states could protect their citizens and basically invited states to enact their own protections. Most states did. Why are Virginians still waiting for their legislature to act?

These much needed policies will protect Virginia families’ homes, farms and businesses; enact honest state budgets; and put a limit on out of control taxing and spending. Together, these proposed constitutional amendments form a unique opportunity to reform state and local government, limit its power and focus it on its proper role.

Property Rights Debate Re-Scheduled For Senate Sub-Committee Tuesday Morning!

Last week we wrote a post on urgent action needed on an important piece of legislation: SJ 307, a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution to protect property rights from excessive eminent domain and provide just compensation to landowners when a public taking truly is necessary. The patron of the resolution, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), subsequent to the post, asked the sub-committee to carry it over to this Tuesday morning — and we desperately need you to contact your members of the sub-committee, and urge them to vote for the resolution (click here for sub-committee members)!

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its deplorable Kelo decision several years ago — it said while the federal courts could not protect property owners from local and state governments — it basically invited states to enact their own protections. Most did. Why are Virginians still waiting for their legislature to act?

Right now, lobbyists for local governments — who use your hard-earned tax dollars to work against your rights at the General Assembly — and large utilities and telecoms are working behind the scenes with their considerable resources, to strengthen their hand for your property. No less than 10 government and corporate groups are lined up against this amendment, while The Family Foundation (see our Constitutional Government paper), The Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council are among the few working for the many — that is, the people.

Without property rights, we don’t have secure homes. Without property rights, we don’t have the security to practice our faith. Without property rights, we have no economic security. Local and state government have eyes bigger than their stomachs for homes, farms and small businesses to feed their economic development schemes. They’ve taken private property and turned it over to developers and corporations for malls and office parks, or for transportation boondoggles. In one heinous case in Hampton, the city took private property for a pittance, and then sold it to a developer for millions while the original owner saw none of the extra money.

At one time, Virginia was a leader in protecting property rights and our Founders, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, ensured these rights in the Commonwealth’s constitution. However, in the last constitutional revision in the early 1970s, they were diminished. But now, with a reawakening of Founding Principles across Virginia and the nation, there is real momentum this year for true reform.

While Big Government and Big Corporations have much money, we have many voices – and they matter! You are a force equalizer. Please contact these senator and express your desire to see Virginia protect your property rights — your homes, farms and businesses!

Constitution 101 Quote Of The Day

It truly is remarkable the lack of understanding some people have of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions. Some of them actually run for, get elected and serve in high office. Case in point: In Friday night's debate between U.S. Senate candidates Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Jim Gilmore, both former governors, Warner was asked a question regarding his veto of a bill which would allow Virginia offshore drilling for oil and natural gas once federal approval is given. Even his Democrat successor, Governor Tim Kaine signed a similar bill. That the question came up surprised us. We posted it Friday afternoon as one of five questions we wanted to hear, although we doubted they would get asked. Gilmore used the veto to blunt Warner's claim that he now supports domestic drilling. 

Defending himself, Warner gave us our Quote Of The Day:

That bill I vetoed because it was the legislature telling the governor what to do in terms of a specific piece of legislation.

But a quick glance at the Constitution verifies that is, in fact, how it works: The legislative branch passes a law and the executive branch executes it (thus the word "executive"). Sort of like a tax increase, where the legislature sets "specific" rates and the executive collects it, something Mr. Warner should know all about. It's as if he was saying he didn't recognize the other two branches of government. Even stranger, this is the same Mark Warner who loves to talk about how bipartisan he and the General Assembly were during his four years in Richmond. All of sudden, it was a partisan machine, trying to roll him over.

(Almost as peculiar, he advocated that "all levels of government . . . local, state and federal" start placing orders for new cars "for 2010 and 2011" from Detroit — cars that get 100 miles per gallon. There are several problems here, perhaps the major one being that they don't exist!)

Also during the debate, adding to his misunderstanding of constitutional matters, Warner repeated the often misstated meaning of overturning Roe vs. Wade. If the case ever gets overturned, it would not end abortion nationwide immediately — a common liberal scare tactic. It simply would return the decision making from the federal courts to each state. 

There are no individual sound bytes of the Quote of the Day that we could find. Instead, you can view the entire debate by clicking here. You can drag the progression bar forward to 40:45 to hear Warner's futuristic 100 mph car claim and to 43:38 to hear the QOD. If you did not see or hear the debate, we encourage you to view it in its entirety in order to make an informed decision this November in this important U.S. Senate contest. It takes less than an hour and is an invigorating give and take.