just compensation

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

Update: Still No Vote On Property Rights, Still Keep Calling Your Senators!

The Virginia Senate vote to protect property rights from the government's overwhelming power of eminent domain again was put off today. One reason given was a senator's absence due to attendance at a funeral, but no one doubts negotiations continue, especially within the Republican caucus, while not losing key Democrats. It's a tight balancing act. However, this delay affords grassroots activists another chance to keep the pressure on. If you have not, please contact your senator and urge him or her to vote for HJ 693, the protection of property rights from eminent domain (patroned by Delegate Johnny Joannou, D-79, Portsmouth). The best way to deny government's appetite for continued growth and limit its intrusiveness is to protect private property and ensure just compensation for the true and few public uses that require a property taking. The only way to do that is to secure our liberties in the state constitution.

Contact your senator by e-mail.

Contact your senator by phone.

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.

VDOT Hoarded $1.45 Billion While Opposing Just Compensation To Landowners

What do property rights and the suddenly found surplus at VDOT have to do with each other? Unfortunately, a lot. First, a little more detail than yesterday's post, which was based on early reports. As it turns out, the much asked for (and denied administratively by the previous two governors as well as legislatively by General Assembly tax-and-spenders) private audit of VDOT found more than $500 million buried in a hole or sitting in a closet. That was for only the most recent fiscal year. A cumulative amount, from all sources, including something akin to unused federal funding credits, totals $1.45 billion! The reasons ranged from projects coming in under budget (good) but the unused money not then reallocated to other or new projects (bad), to money stashed away from canceled projects (really bad), and a reserve fund (on top of the "Rainy Day Fund") that was never used and allowed to accumulate excesses of unneeded cash (incredibly inept).

As I mentioned yesterday, it's not exactly as easy as 2 + 2 = 4, but that's exactly why conservatives for years have asked for a private audit. Governor Bob McDonnell administration deserves credit for an excellent first step in VDOT and state government reform. He also has found a way to put much of this money to work within weeks. As the governor said, we've been sitting in traffic while the money has been sitting in the state's wallet — all while General Assembly liberals and former Governor Tim Kaine tried to ram tax increase after tax increase at us for transportation.

That's unforgivable governance. But what's worse is the arrogance of VDOT and local governments in opposing one of the most important bills during the 2010 General Assembly — HB 652, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) — which would have provided property owners a mechanism to get full and just compensation when government took their land through eminent domain. In what can now be exposed as nothing less than despicable, VDOT slapped a speculative $40 million (over five years) Fiscal Impact Statement on the bill. Speculative because there was no fixed cost to the bill, only a legal process to allow property owners a fair shake at compensation.

VDOT, in essence, was admitting that it underpays property owners, never mind the impropriety of a state agency using hard-earned taxpayer dollars to sabotage the rights of those very same taxpayers, by meddling in the legislative process. But that didn't stop the agency from crying poverty, saying it couldn't "afford" it, and that it hardly had the money it needed to keep up with basic maintenance. Not ironically, it teamed with those same government-at-all-costs (literally) legislators to kill the bill in the Senate Finance Committee (some of whom had additional nefarious reasons) after it passed the House 98-1. All while hoarding $1.45 billion of taxpayer money.

So, this revelation has several layers of repercussions. Not only has there been mismanagement and an attempt to raise taxes for no reason, certain legislators and government bureaucrats have trampled on constitutional rights and used our tax money to do so. That's one big intersection of devious interests that VDOT has no business building.

Virginia Senate Trounces Your Constitutional Private Property Rights, Empowers Government At Your Expense!

Just a couple of hours ago, the Senate Finance Committee (see vote) trounced on your constitutional rights to just compensation in eminent domain cases. Actually, it's worse than that. It trounced on your rights simply to present evidence to juries in eminent domain cases! The following is the news release, just issued, by the patron of HB 652, Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville):

Senate Committee Kills Bill to Protect Landowners

~Armstrong vows to continue to fight for average citizens~

After passing the House with a 98-1 vote, Delegate Ward Armstrong’s “Landowner’s Rights Bill” (HB652) was killed in a Senate Finance Committee on a 10-3 vote Wednesday morning. Senators Reynolds, Watkins, and Hanger were the only members voting in favor of the legislation.

HB652 would have provided that any restriction, change, or loss of access to or from property taken under the power of eminent domain to be considered as an element in assessing damages for the purposes of determining just compensation.

"I’m very disappointed that the committee chose to side with government instead of the average citizen," said Armstrong. "The worst thing that a government can do to someone is deprive them of their liberty; the second worst thing is to deprive them of their property without just compensation. I intend to introduce the measure again next year."

The bill was supported by a variety of groups including: The VA Farm Bureau, National Federation of Independent Businesses, The VA Agribusiness Council, and The Family Foundation.

Property Rights: Your Rights? Or The Government's Right To Take It From You?

Yesterday, HB 652, the property rights reform bill, was referred by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee to the Senate Finance Committee because of an alleged "fiscal impact" to the state. The bill will be heard tomorrow morning in Finance. The impact simply is hypothetical, conjecture and/or assumption. Take your pick. Fiscal Impact Statements are supposed to identify the cost of bills that require certain new expenses, not something VDOT says "might happen." This is nothing more than big government bureaucracy trying to kill a bill that would have them rightly compensate people whose property they take. Yesterday, in Courts of Justice, when committee Chairman Henry Marsh (D-16, Richmond) said he was bringing up a motion to refer the bill to Finance, Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath) was rightly surprised. He asked if the bill had a Fiscal Impact Statement. The reply from a senator opposed to the bill was, "Yes, a big one. One that will affect future budgets." Oh, how the big government lobby has them fooled. There was some discussion, but the bill had its course set — not much anyone could do at that point. The vote was taken and it was sent to Finance unanimously.

But facts won't die. When the House Appropriations Committee thoroughly vetted this bill, it found no fiscal impact! There is no more of a fine tooth comb in the General Assembly than the House Appropriations Committee. But the forces of big government, such as lobbyists for the counties and cities, as well as VDOT, will do everything they can to prevent liberty and scuttle property rights that affect families, small businesses and farms.

Were HB 652 to become law, it would go a long way toward making whole families whose businesses, homes and farms are horribly affected by eminent domain. The bill, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) and co-patroned by several Republicans, passed the House 98-1. It would allow property owners a chance to present evidence that a government property taking has rendered other property useless, and therefore receive adequate compensation. It is a fairness bill — it guarantees nothing — only that such evidence can be presented to a jury in eminent domain cases. The government can still make its case and if it has a good argument it will win. Fair is fair.

But the big government types — who use your tax money to lobby against you — are trying hard to kill this bill. They say it is "too expensive" even though all alleged "costs" are speculative. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) said it best: "I don’t know how VDOT can arrive at an impact. It’s like they’re predicting juries!" We agree and if VDOT and other agencies say they’ll have to pay more money, it’s an admission that they have been ripping off landowners in Virginia for decades. Enough of that! Let them take only the land they need and pay a fair price for it or don’t take it at all — then they won’t have to worry about a "fiscal impact."

According to our property rights expert witnesses, this is the biggest eminent domain reform law in Virginia in decades, apart from the 2007 law that defines public use. It would be a shame for it to get this far only for a Senate committee to rule against the people in favor of big government interests whose appetite for your tax money never abates.

The Finance Committee meets at 9:00 tomorrow morning. It has a short docket, so a lot of attention will be focused on this bill. Do you part to ensure constitutional protections of property rights. Please contact members (click here) of the Senate Finance Committee now and ask them to pass HB 652.

The Intrigue In Senate Courts Of Justice Never Stops

The intrigue this session in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee continues. Remember the saga of SB 504? It was in COJ, and passed out of a sub-committee, only to be abruptly referred to the Committee on Education and Health. Today, for some unexplained reason (and it may be on the up and up) HB 652, a property rights/just compensation bill, which was supposed to be heard in the COJ Civil Sub-committee was (with selected other bills) singled out to be carried over straight to the full committee on Monday morning. If HB 652 passes there, it likely will be referred to the Finance Committee because of an alleged "fiscal impact." Oh, the things I wish I could tell. But can't. But hope to once the coast is clear!

Back to matter at hand: HB 652 is a great bill that will go a long way to making whole families whose businesses, homes and farms are horribly affected in eminent domain cases. The bill, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) and co-patroned by several Republicans, passed the House 98-1, and the Appropriations Committee said it caused no fiscal impact to the Commonwealth. However, we think there may be some skeptics in the Senate, so please act (see below). The bill would allow property owners a chance to present evidence that a government taking has rendered other property useless, and therefore receive adequate compensation. It is a fairness bill — it guarantees nothing — only that a farmer, small business owner or family can present the evidence to a jury in eminent domain cases. The government can still make its case and if it has a good argument it will win. Fair is fair.

But the big government types — counties, cities and VDOT, who use your tax money to lobby against you — are trying hard to kill this bill. They say it is "too expensive" even though all alleged "costs" are speculative. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) said it best: "I don’t know how VDOT can arrive at an impact. It’s like they’re predicting juries!" We agree, and if VDOT and other agencies say they’ll have to pay more money, it’s an admission that it has been ripping off landowners in Virginia for decades already! Enough of that! (See refutation of FIS.) Let them take only the land they need and pay a fair price for it or don’t take it at all — then they won’t have to worry about a "fiscal impact."

According to our property rights expert witnesses, this is the biggest eminent domain reform law in Virginia in decades, apart from the 2007 law that defines public use. It would be a shame for it to get this far only for a Senate committee to rule against the people in favor of big government interests whose appetite for your tax money never abates.

So, please contact members of the Senate Courts of Justice (here) and Finance Committees now and ask them to pass HB 652.