the Virginia Agribusiness Council

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.

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!