utilities

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.

 

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!