property rights

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.

 

Tomorrow Is Almost Here: The Election Is In Your Hands

What seems like one of the longest presidential campaigns in history comes to a conclusion tomorrow (we hope!) as Americans go to the polls. Pundits and prognosticators are predicting a close election, with Virginia being one of the states that the experts believe is still hanging in the balance. As national Christian leaders remarked last week, one state — Virginia — can determine the outcome of the entire country's future. Does that motivate you to vote and get others to the polls? I know I don't have to tell you about the importance of tomorrow's vote. Obviously our nation is in a tenuous place, morally and economically, and whether or not one election can change our course or not remains to be seen, but we have a clear choice between presidential candidates on both moral and economic issues. For weeks, The Family Foundation Action has worked to ensure that pro-family, pro-life voters are identified, educated and mobilized. I know pastors around Virginia have been encouraging their congregations to vote the principles of life, marriage and religious liberty when they make their decisions tomorrow.

If you haven’t yet, please review our 2012 Presidential and U.S. Senate Voter Guide at vavotes.net and be sure that your friends and family have seen it as well. I believe it presents very clearly where the candidates for President and the U.S. Senate stand on issues that are important to you and me.

Please remember the new voter ID requirements in Virginia. You can learn more about what you need to bring with you to vote at the State Board of Elections website. Also, if you have any doubt about your polling station's location, please click here to find it. It's important that you show up at the right place! Polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Remember also that there are two state constitutional amendments on the ballot. The Family Foundation Action supports both. Question 1 would protect property rights and limit the government’s power of eminent domain. You can read more about this amendment by clicking here and here.

Question 2 is a technical change to the constitution regarding when the General Assembly’s veto session is held during years when veto session falls on a religious holiday.

Everyone who walks into a voting booth tomorrow will "vote values." The question is whether they will vote for the things they value or the things God values.

The answer is now in your hands.

 

Paid for by The Family Foundation Action and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

 

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.

Attorney General Cuccinelli Condemns The Condemnors In Norfolk

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has clearly articulated defined constitutional principles his entire career and as attorney general he has vigorously defended them in high courts and in the court of public opinion. Yesterday, he was in the latter, making his case at a Norfolk news conference where he discussed how the abuse of eminent domain power against local property owners by the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority dramatizes the need for voter approval of the proposed constitutional amendment on property rights (see Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). The event highlighted the well publicized case of Central Radio, a 78-year-old business that the NRHA is desperately trying to force from the property it has owned for 50 years, where it provides essential equipment for the U.S. Navy, and where it must remain to continue to meet its contract's requirements. But Central Radio's plight clearly is not a unique case. Also at the news conference, its attorneys announced its appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court to stop the condemnation of Central Radio and other properties for private economic development at Old Dominion Village. Mr. Cuccinelli said:

We have fought every year since before the 2005 Kelo decision to strengthen property rights in the commonwealth through various bills and three attempts at a constitutional amendment. A property rights amendment to Virginia's constitution is the ultimate protection Virginians need, and voters will finally have a property rights amendment to vote on in the November ballot. Hopefully then — finally — we can put this dreaded and abominable era of government taking private property from one landowner and giving it to another behind us. ...

The defense of property rights is the defense of a founding principle of this country. It belongs in our constitution.

The constitutional amendment has four reforms:

» Private property can only be taken for true public uses, not for enhancing tax revenues, economic development, or private gain;

» The cost of taking property must be borne by the public, not by the individual property owner. Fair and full compensation must be given when property is taken or damaged — this includes loss of business profits and loss of access (which is be defined by companion legislation that will take effect if the amendment is ratified);

» No more property can be taken than is necessary for the project; and

» The burden of proof that the taking is for a true "public use" is on the entity taking the property.

Currently, Virginia has statutory protections for property owners. It passed the General Assembly in 2007, and Mr. Cuccinelli, then a Virginia senator, was one of the patrons of the legislation. It provides homeowners, farmers and business owners the protections in the first amendment's first feature. For example: A locality or state agency cannot take a family business, church property, homes or farmland in order to turn it over to a private developer for a shopping mall. If the developer wants it that much, it  must make a convincing offer to the landowners. As the attorney general said, "It is not the city's job to force people out of their homes or businesses for the developer." Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence in Virginia.

But the 2007 law does not include all the protections the amendment contains. Not only that, but special interests every year since have tried to chip away at it and will continue their attempts to weaken it until the "permanent" constitutional protections are ratified by Virginians.

The proposed amendment, after seven years of debate in the General Assembly, finally won its required second approval last session by legislators after the required intervening election and no changes to the resolution's language, and is on Virginia's ballot this November. While it received broad bipartisan support, it faces hostile opposition by local governments, "public-private" groups, housing authorities, and others connected to local and state government (including developers) who see passage as eroding their power over the citizens they are hired to serve. Making matters worse, they have used their residents' hard-earned tax money to lobby the General Assembly against this basic right by opposing the proposed amendment and property rights statutes since 2005. They have been largely successful, with two exceptions: 2011 and 2012, and 2007. This November, as they go to the polls, Virginians can end the debate once and for all.

Virginia Beach Church's Saga With City Perfect Example Of Property Rights = Religious Liberty

While Virginia's electorate will be focused on the presidential, U.S. Senate, Congressional and some local elections in November, pretty much in that order — and the Mainstream Media will be obsessed with the horse race and issueless aspects of the campaigns and protesting that the candidates are not addressing issues, all while ignoring the candidates' issues — Virginians will have the opportunity to ratify an amendment to protect private property rights . We have made this a priority issue since  the Supreme Court'd deplorable 2005 decision in Kelo v. New London, Conn., that allowed government to take one's property and transfer it to another private entity. The ruling did say, however, that it was a state issue, and many states that did not have constitutional protections hurried to ratify the basic right of private property ownership into their state constitutions. But here in the Old Dominion, we did things the Virginia way . . . and dragged and dragged and dragged our feet some more. Finally, seven years after Suzette Kelo had her 100-year-old family home taken from her for an "economic development" project that was never built, this November Virginians will have the chance to ratify an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that will not only protect private property rights but also provide for just compensation for when eminent domain must be used for legitimate public uses.

We will provide more commentary and follow the ratification campaign as it develops this summer and fall. But for now, please view the video below (or click here) about Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach. Although a settlement with the city of Virginia Beach was reached a few days ago, this interview with its pastor and attorney Joe Waldo previous to the settlement shows just how important property rights are: In many respects, it is the first right, because without ownership of private property and its safeguard from the government, there is no guarantee of a place from which to speak freely, nor to worship, nor to make a living for one's family.

For those who care about halting the growth of big government, of exercising restraint in government growth and limiting government's power, this is the ultimate issue. With unchecked power of eminent domain, there is no limit on what government can take, how big it can grow or what it can do under the guise of "economic development" or any other expedient excuse it deems for the public good. Taking land is every bit a part of government's addiction to expanding as taking families' hard earned tax dollars.

Virginians will have the opportunity to end the tyranny of eminent domain in November by ratifying a constitutional amendment to the state constitution to protect private property rights from big government.

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. 

The BPOL Tax: A Bicentennial Only Local Governments Could Celebrate

The local governments are at it again. Every year during session they use the tax dollars of those they represent — us! — to lobby directly against our interests. The best example is their years-long opposition to property rights protections, at which they finally failed this session. (By the way, if they claim to represent their residents, why are they afraid of a vote by those same people to ratify or reject property rights?) Now, they are trying to scuttle HB 10, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Fredericksburg), which would give a modest — and fair — amount of tax relief to small and family owned businesses by prohibiting localities from increasing their BPOL Tax for four years above what it is during the 2011 license year. But that doesn't sit well with the local government lobby, which has an unquenchable thirst for our hard-earned tax dollars.

The BPOL Tax is one of the least fair of all taxes because it taxes the gross receipts on a business, not its profits. For example, a business that brings in receipts of $500,000 but loses $100,000 gets taxed on the $500,000! This kills small and family owned businesses and stifles job creation.

While local governments talk about their "pain" who speaks for the hardships facing small businesses and individuals? It's almost funny how government always asks us to sacrifice but itself never sacrifices anything —  especially local governments who see themselves as their own entity, rather than stewards of their communities' interests, and are in the game to preserve their interests and power, not unlike any other special interest or industry.

HB 10 passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority (88-12) early in session, but only now is getting its day in the Senate, where it will be heard tomorrow morning in the Finance Committee. One of the many fun things devoid of an already dour session this year is a little-bill- that-could. You hear of them every year, a bill that comes out of nowhere and does some good things. Maybe HB 10 is it.

Last year, Delegates Cole and Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach) were successful in passing some helpful changes to the inherently unfair BPOL Tax, which is "celebrating" its bicentennial year this year — originally levied to pay for the War of 1812Unlike this modest bill, which has a sunset provision, the BPOL Tax was never discontinued when it accomplished its goal 200 years ago — a never-ending tax of dreams for the Big Government types. It's time for a little more for fairness and suppression of the Big Government appetite.

Not only is the BPOL Tax bad policy, it is particularly heinous during a slow economy. The bill also gives localities the option to impose the BPOL Tax on the Virginia taxable income of a corporation, the net income of a sole proprietorship, and the net income of a pass-through entity, which simply is the right and just way to tax businesses.

With so much going on this session, the little-bills-that-could get lost in the pack. But HB 10 can make an impact for tax fairness, job growth and small government with a victory tomorrow in Senate Finance. While local governments fight for themselves, we can fight back.

Please contact senators on the Senate Finance Committee (click here) and urge them to vote for HB 10 tomorrow!

GA Issues 2012 - Protecting a Fundamental Right

Late in last year’s General Assembly session, legislation that would give Virginians the opportunity to vote on a Constitutional amendment protecting property rights passed the General Assembly.  Since the Supreme Court’s notorious Kelo decision several years ago, property rights advocates have been working toward this amendment in Virginia, only to be thwarted by the state Senate.  In a surprise chain of events in the final hours of the 2011 session, the Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming vote of 35-5. To amend the Virginia Constitution, the same legislation must pass the General Assembly again this year, after the intervening election (November 2011), without any changes, then go to the ballot in November for the voters’ approval.

Considering the bill received 35 votes in the Senate and passed the House with 83 votes, one would think passage this year would be little more than a formality.  Unfortunately, that won’t be the case, as special interests, especially local governments, are working overtime to deny Virginians the opportunity to vote.  In fact, many localities are using your taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists to fight your right to protect your property!

The passage of the amendment not only faces hostility from local governments, but other complications as well.  The amendment bill left undefined two key phrases, “lost revenue” and “lost access,” two legal areas concerning how much lost revenue or access a property owner can be reimbursed for should the government use its power of eminent domain to secure their property.  Those terms will have to be defined legislatively in separate bills.  Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been working with interested parties for several months on defining these terms appropriately in hopes that doing so will facilitate passage of the amendment.

These bills protecting your property rights are important to farmers, small business owners, churches and ministries, and home owners across Virginia.  There are certainly times when government must be able to take property and justly compensate the property owner for the good of the community.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court so widely defined those purposes that it has become a tool for “economic development” schemes and government expansion.  There are examples of this misuse in Virginia where local governments took property simply to increase their revenue base.

The Family Foundation will continue to work with property rights advocates in the General Assembly like Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Delegates Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville) and Johnny Joannau (D-79, Portsmouth), as well as the Attorney General, to ensure that one of our most fundamental rights, our right to be secure in our property, is protected.

Tomorrow Is Primary Day!

Tomorrow is primary day in Virginia.  There are only a few, but these elections will determine several of the nominees from both parties to run for the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate in November. Primaries normally are held in June in Virginia, but because this is a redistricting year, primary day was pushed back to give the General Assembly time to draw new districts (and for Governor Bob McDonnell to sign into law after he vetoed a blatantly partisan Democrat Senate plan first sent to him), as well as wait on Justice Department approval as per The Voting Rights Act. We encourage all Virginians who live in a district with a primary to make an informed decision and vote tomorrow. With more and more decisions made at the state level to combat the increasing encroachment of the federal government, as well as the perennially important issues such as life, marriage, school choice, parental authority, property rights, religious liberty, transparency and government reforms, having principled conservative leadership at Mr. Jefferson's capitol is more important than ever. Turnout is expected to be very light — less than 10 percent — so each vote will carry more weight and be more decisive.

There are several hotly contested primaries, especially for various Senate seats around the commonwealth, particularly on the Republican side — most likely due to the perceived momentum it has after the last two elections cycles where it cleaned up statewide offices and congressional seats. The political atmosphere is not unlike four years ago when Democrats came out of the woodwork to seek nominations to run against a wounded Republican brand, itself having been manhandled in the 2005 and 2006 elections. Democrats subsequently won the Virginia Senate from the Republicans as well as the state for Barack Obama and a U.S. Senate Seat in 2008. 

Are we in for  symmetrical reversal? It all starts tomorrow. 

If you are not yet aware if you have been redistricted into a new House or Senate district and if there is a primary where you live, below are links to today's primaries.  If you are unsure of which district you live in, click here and fill out the required information or call your local registrar. Polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Voting is at your regular precinct polling station.

Democrat Primaries – House and Senate

Democrat Primaries – Local

Republican Primaries – House and Senate

Republican Primaries - Local

We make no predictions about tomorrow or even November, except for this: If the Democrats retain control of the Virginia Senate, it will mean, according to the Mainstream Media, that President Obama is well on his way to reelection. If the Republicans win, it won't gain a headline outside the Commonwealth's borders.

Saslaw On Eminent Domain Reform: He Voted Against It Before He Voted For It

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, two of the 20 reasons why this year's General Assembly mattered were the abortion center safety bill and the proposed constitutional amendment to protect property rights. Both, at numbers one and nine, respectively, were Family Foundation priorities. So, it's with no small reason that we emphasised those pieces of legislation and that we revisit one of them today — property rights (see Washington Post article on our influence on the legislation). That's because one senator who voted for the property rights resolution (HJ 693) is very much on record as being against constitutional protections from eminent domain. He made that very clear in 2007, when he helped kill a similar resolution. See for yourself:

As the video explicitly shows, Senator Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield), now the majority leader, not only pronounced his opposition to protecting citizens from government seizing their land, but said it twice — on succeeding days. No slip of the tongue there. What a difference four years and this November's upcoming-tough-battle-to-keep-his-majority makes. Although he was most assuredly working behind the scenes to stop this year's amendment as well, once the train left the station, and not willing to leave his caucus exposed on a popular campaign issue, Senator Saslaw (D-37, Springfield) decided to vote for the resolution.

Not only that, and perhaps to even things out from four years ago, Senator Saslaw voted for it not once, but twice — on the original vote (here) and on a reconsideration vote (here), when some senators finally figured out that property rights really do belong in the constitution and wanted to upgrade from nay to yea before their constituents found out. It required a double take to believe he did not vote no when given the second chance, but despite what people think, miracles and conversions (of the election year kind) do happen, and happen often at the General Assembly.

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.

Update: Vote Delayed Friday As Senators Negotiated; Insist They Keep Toughest Property Rights Protections In HJ 693 On Today's Vote!

Legislation rarely goes in a straight line at the General Assembly, least of all when it concerns eminent domain. In 2007, the statute that eventually passed appeared completely dead at one point. Now we face a similar situation in getting a constitutional amendment passed. Late last week an excellent resolution for a state constitutional amendment (HJ 693) stunningly made it out of a Senate committee and to the floor for the first time after years of trying. However, there is fierce and determined opposition by very powerful interest groups, with great amounts of resources at their disposal. This opposition necessitated negotiations between them and their Senate allies with senators, who, like us, absolutely are committed to language that includes just compensation for victims whose property — personal and business — is taken through the power of eminent domain.

So, on Friday, Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest) asked that HJ 693 be "passed by for the day," while he works on substitute language that addresses the issues some have with the resolution while still protecting its substance.

Property rights are fundamental to ensuring family life, our jobs and businesses, and even our places of worship. Strong property protections limit government growth and intrusiveness. Because it is a fundamental aspect to our liberty, The Family Foundation remains committed to this issue and the most comprehensive property protections for families, farmers and their businesses.

The Senate again will attempt to vote on HJ 693 this afternoon. Senators read their e-mails and take into account calls up to the last minute. It is not too late to make your voice heard to counter the special interests. Contact your senator and insist he or she support the strongest language in HJ 693 to protect property rights and the just compensation for those whose property must be taken for a true public use.

Contact your senator by e-mail.

Contact your senator by phone.

Learn who your senator is.

Update: HJ 693, Property Rights Constitutional Amendment, Passed By Again; More Time To Contact Your Senator!

The property rights resolution (state constitutional amendment), HJ 693, patroned by Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth), was passed by on the floor of the Senate again today. With numerous interested parties, on both sides of the issue, watching with great intent on monitors throughout several rooms in the General Assembly Building and capitol, Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest) made the motion that it be by passed by for the day. The pro forma courtesy was granted. The reason: unclear, though one senator, not involved in them, said it was due to negotiations. Negotiations? Always negotiations! Frustrating observers and activists was that the resolution was the last piece of legislation on the calendar — all that time listening to debates over occupancy taxes and prison sentences for attacks on emergency room personnel for naught.

On the other hand, it provides more time to contact your senator and urge his or her vote for HJ 693, as well as more publicity about it. Two more radio talk shows in Richmond, that I'm aware of, have or will beat the drum today and tomorrow; and more time to share this information on your social media sites. A sampling of senate office staff indicates that calls and e-mails are running well ahead for supporting. Hopefully, the big utilities and big local government lobbyists (who use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights, such as supporting eminent domain) aren't using this delay to cool down the temperature. Still, another reason to keep the pressure on!

Contact your senator by e-mail.

Contact your senator by phone.

Learn who your senator is.

A Great Day With The Lt. Governor And My Blogger Brethern

Wish I had more time to write about this. Wish I had more time to participate today, but I was wearing my other hat (as lobbyist) — and even ended up lobbying my fellow bloggers to blog about the big property rights vote: But it was a tremendous day at Lt. Governor Bill Bolling's 4th Annual Bloggers Day At The Capitol, capped off with a terrific reception with the LG and Governor Bob McDonnell at the Executive Mansion in the early evening. Thanks a million Lt. Governor! Thanks also to my bloggers in arms. I wish only that I could've solely focused on the fun of talking blog shop and not slugging it out in the legislative trenches with friends and foes (some of which was going on just outside the doorway where where the afternoon bloggers' briefing took place). Oh, what I wish I could blog about!

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.

Why Property Rights Are Important And An Inside Look At The Senate: Interview With Senator Mark Obenshain

If you are wondering why we have emphasized the importance of property rights this session and the procedural games played by the Virginia Senate, then listen to an outstanding interview (below) given Saturday by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) to Scott and Richard Lee on Richmond radio station WRVA's Saturday Morning With The Lee Brothers. In it, the senator gives the inside scoop on what has gone down in the Senate regarding the on-going rules fights between Republicans and majority Democrats, and handicaps tomorrow's vote in a Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee on HJ 693, a property rights amendment to the Virginia Constitution. It's very much worth the listen.

Click here to listen to the Lee Brothers interview Senator Mark Obenshain (9:30).

Now that you've listened, don't you want to do something about it? It's not too late and it's not just us saying so (see our friends at Disrupt The Narrative). Contact members of the sub-committee listed here and ask them to vote to report HJ 693, patroned by Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth).

While Senate Roadblocks Property Rights, House Reflects People's Will 81-19

While the Virginia Senate has proved to be a roadblock for property rights and reform of government's oppressive power of eminent domain — first, by defeating SJ 307 4-3 in a sub-committee vote, then refusing to bring it to the full Privileges and Elections Committee, then blocking a discharge motion to bring it to the floor — all hope of passing a constitutional amendment to guarantee these protections is not lost this session. That's because at the same time the Senate majority Democrats defeated Senator Mark Obenshain's discharge motion on SJ 307 Tuesday, the House passed HJ 693, patroned by Delegates Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth) and Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), by an overwhelming 81-18 margin. This mammoth bipartisan vote surpasses even the 60-something vote the eminent domain reform statute received in 2007. Now, this coming Tuesday morning, the same Senate subcommittee that earlier in session listened to local governments and unelected housing and redevelopment authorities instead of their constituents, will get another chance to listen to the will of the people and protect your property rights.

Contact members of the Senate Privileges and Elections Sub-committee on Constitutional Amendments Tuesday morning (members' contact links here) and ask them to report HJ 693.

Defending our property rights is a longstanding principle of The Family Foundation, and we've supported efforts for several years to pass a constitutional amendment that answers the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous and deplorable Kelo decision. Property rights affect all people, across all socio-economic and geographic lines. Perhaps the most affected are urban families, whose homes and businesses are considered an inconvenience to urban planners' redevelopment schemes, most of which always fail (think Richmond's 6th Street Marketplace).

While Virginia passed a law in 2007 in  response to Kelo, developers,  utilities, and local governments and housing and redevelopment authorities (who use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights) have tried each subsequent year to chip away at that statute. In short, as good as the statute is, it needs the protection only a constitutional amendment can provide.

Final Chance For Property Rights Constitutional Amendment Friday Morning!

After two weeks of delays, one of the most important committee votes of the 2011 General Assembly will take place Friday morning in the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Members will consider a constitutional amendment to safeguard your property rights from the power of eminent domain by state and local government and utilities. It is the last chance the committee has to approve the resolution if it is to meet the "crossover" deadline and pass it to the Senate. If there is no constitutional amendment passed this session, the earliest chance Virginians will have to vote on one will be November 2014.

It is urgent that you contact committee members to support this vitally important issue. Better still if one is your delegate. Click here for links to their contact information.

There are two identical resolutions before the committee: HJ 647, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville) and/or HJ 693, patroned by Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth). This has been a long and difficult process, with a lot of work behind the scenes, but little to show for it so far, fighting off the big utilities as well as local governments who use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights. Friday, however, is our chance to move the ball forward for constitutional protections, limited government and economic and personal liberty.

Eminent domain is one of the most powerful and intimidating tools government has to increase its size, expand its reach into our lives and limit our freedoms. Without constitutional protections, you only borrow your property until the government takes it for whatever reason it determines. Without property rights, we don’t have secure homes for our families, the liberty to practice our faith, or the opportunity for economic advancement.

The fact is, ever since the deplorable Kelo decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, local and state governments have had eyes bigger than their stomachs for homes, farms and small businesses to feed their economic development schemes and pork barrel projects. Worse, sometimes they take private property and turn it over to another private entity. 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.

The Kelo decision was in 2005. The General Assembly has kept us waiting long enough to secure our constitutional rights to private property. Now, tell them the waiting is over!

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!

Property Rights Constitutional Amendments Will Be Carried Over For A Week

Last night we were gearing up for a significant legislative battle in committee Friday morning on one of our Founding Principles — property rights. However, we learned earlier today that the proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution will be carried over to next Friday in the full House Privileges and Elections Committee (click here to get members' contact information). The resolution is HJ 647 and is patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville). (In sub-committee, HJ 498, patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi, and HJ 515, patroned by Delegate Annie B. Crockett-Stark, were rolled into HJ 647.) In addition, Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth) is the patron of HJ 693, which was brought straight to full committee, but which also will be carried over to next week.   While it may be a let down in the short-term, we're hopeful the week will allow for more grassroots activism. While the Big Government lobby and Big Corporations may have a lot of money, but we have more voices. Ensuring private property and the just compensation of its owners in the cases where true eminent domain is required, is fundamental to preserving our liberty, because if the government can take your property, they can take your business, your church, your farm — anything — and claim it for a "public use." It happens with disturbing frequency and must be stopped. Use this week to contact members of the committee and urge passing of HJ 647/HJ 693, especially if your delegate is a member.