vdot

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

As Big Vote On Property Rights Looms, VDOT Continues To Subvert Property Rights Amendment

On Monday afternoon, the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee will consider SB 194, patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), a bill to put at least a partial stop on the practice of inverse condemnation, a back door method of eminent domain without just compensation prohibited by the Property Rights Amendment to the Virginia Constitution ratified by 75 percent of Virginians in 2012. (Click here for a previous posts explaining this devious process.) But it doesn't stop there. VDOT has practiced a long line of abuses to prevent the people of Virginia from enjoying what our constitution calls a "fundamental right," which is the most basic of God given rights. Property ownership is cherished as a fundamental right along with all those enumerated in the Bill of Rights, for without property, one has no protection from the government to practice free speech or worship, or even to own a home or make a living to support one's family.

For example, this op-ed by Roger Chesley in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, appropriately titled, "VDOT takes the low road on bait and switch tactics on land grabs," plainly explains the horrors of VDOT on the Ramsey family in Virginia Beach and why actions such as this sour voters on all government. VDOT bought the Ramsey’s property in an eminent domain case but now, because VDOT’s own actions have devalued the property, it is suing the Ramsey’s for a refund!

VDOT’s tactics in the Ramsey case are one of several it is using to sully government and hammer families into submission. VDOT fought for eight years against eminent domain reform after the deplorable Kelo decision. Now, despite the massive mandate of the Property Rights Amendment less than two years ago, VDOT continues to subvert it and torment hard working Virginia families by taking their property and not paying just compensation. Here's a list of VDOT's other actions, and below, see a video of a VDOT official lobbying against your rights while being paid by your hard earned tax dollars.

* VDOT is using the practice of inverse condemnation to devalue property, not act on it for lengthy periods during which period nothing can be done to the land, effectively taking it off the market, so that it can then buy the land for a fraction of its original worth. This not only rips off the families who often have owned the land for decades, but also is a backdoor subsidization of the project, hitting the family twice — once for its annual taxes to the Commonwealth and taking its property on the cheap.

* VDOT has attached Fiscal Impact Statements to eminent domain bills for years, a clear conflict of interest! This has unfairly condemned bills to failure. Furthermore, each FIS is nothing more than speculation. More than that, the cost of land acquisitions is the cost of doing business, just as are costs radio advertising or gas. Does VDOT file an FIS on its fuel vendors?

* By its own admission, through its Fiscal Impact Statements, VDOT admits it has ripped off the Virginia taxpayers for years by refusing to pay fair value. If there is a fiscal impact on purchasing property, the General Assembly could not have passed the eminent domain reform law in 2007, much less the Property Rights Amendment to the Constitution. VDOT’s actions equate to an attitude that property owners only rent their property until VDOT needs it.

* VDOT has a budget of land acquisitions. If it needs more money, it needs to seek it – not take people’s property cheaply.

* VDOT employees lobby the General Assembly at taxpayer expense to hold down just compensation for families’ lands — a double blow against the citizens of Virginia who effectively are compelled to pay government employees to lobby against their fundamental rights!

VDOT is a menace to Virginians in every region of the Commonwealth, urban or suburban, of all socio-economic means. It is up to the General Assembly to reign in VDOT! Click here to ask members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-committee to vote for SB 194 tomorrow!

Forward the video to about the 25:30 mark to hear a VDOT official lobby this Senate committee against SB 194, trying to deny your rights while being paid by the hard earned tax dollars you send to Richmond!

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.

 

Despite 75 Percent Approval Of 2012 Property Rights Amendment, Government Still Engaged In Eminent Domain Abuse

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee will consider SB 194, a bill to protect property owners from inverse condemnation, a technique that subverts the Property Rights Amendment Virginians passed with 75 percent of the vote in 2012, after government bureaucrats prevented it from reaching the ballot for years. It is a shame that after such a massive victory for families and for liberty from big government, we still must fight eminent domain abuse. Here’s what VDOT and other 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, often in the same family for decades, or invested in for retirement or for family needs, such as paying for children’s college education, instantly loses massive value.

The property owner can’t sell it to anyone, because nothing can be done to the land. The government agency can take its time — often years — until the property is so cheap, it’s 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!

The perfect example of this is the Tri-County Parkway in Prince William and Loudon Counties. There, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the federal government teamed up to "grant" conservation easements to land in a historic district so as to build a road near a historic battlefield. Yet, it asked no property owners if they wanted the easements and, in fact, every property owner wrote asking for their land to be removed from the easements. But, the government is sticking to its position.

Please contact members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, especially if your senator is a member. Ask them to support Senator Dick Black's SB 194 this Wednesday. The bill will protect property values by allowing the owner to get compensated for what the land was worth at the beginning of the process.

The bill also dovetails with the Property Rights Amendment’s language that allows property owners to receive just legal expenses in these indirect takings, just as owners do who have their land taken by conventional eminent domain. Currently, property owners, especially older ones, are intimidated from going to court for fear of expensive court costs.

ACTION: Please contact members if the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and urge them or her to vote yes Wednesday on SB 194, to prevent this shameless method of government taking families’ lands on the cheap and circumventing the Property Rights Amendment!

 

 

 

New Poll Question: Who Mismanaged Worse? Kaine Or Warner?

Find $1.45 billion laying around your local VDOT recently? Kind of puts in question those "Best Managed State" awards Tim Kaine and Mark Warner loved to brag about. Which got me thinking: Who did worse? Tim Kaine in mismanaging VDOT and letting nearly $1.5 billion languish in various accounts while trying to raise our taxes (against his own campaign promise) "for transportation needs"? Or, Mark Warner, who also violated his no-tax pledge when he grossly underestimated general fund revenue, saying we couldn't pay teachers, police and firefighters unless we raised taxes, only to find a huge surplus weeks after signing the tax increase bill? Or, back to Mr. Kaine, who overestimated general fund revenue during a recession, despite advice to the contrary, so that when revenue fell short, he could kick and scream for a tax increase to fund his new programs?

We ask. You decide.

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.

While Digging For New Roads Apparently VDOT Buried The Money

All these years General Assembly tax and spenders tried to out bid each other for the highest tax increase possible to pay to improve Virginia's transportation system. The most partisan governor in recent years, Tim Kaine, even closed down rest areas to make it seem as if we couldn't even perform basic highway functions, just to prove his tax-increasing point. Well, now. A just completed private audit of VDOT, the results of which were released this afternoon (Washington Post), shows that while Mr. Kaine was robo-calling into House of Delegate districts to bludgeon Republicans who wouldn't support a tax increase — many of whom called for this very audit first before any new taxpayer money was thrown at VDOT — his administration wasn't even spending the money it had! As in about $500 million in money laying around.

This story already is making national headlines as a perfect example of government inefficiency (Business Week). Unfortunately, it proves too many people's suspicions and confirms much of the reputation VDOT has curiously earned over the years. To be sure, there are many angles to this story, and just taking this money and putting it to work isn't as easy as it appears. It also may put the clamps on real government and VDOT reform (we have the cash, now, no longer a need to change things) as Norm Leahy explains at Tertium Quids. Mind you, this wasn't a performance audit, as to whether the state has planned wisely and where roads and systems should go, but a spending audit. But the McDonnell adminstrationgets kudos for at least finding these dead bodies. For his part, the DNC chairman took time out from slamming Congressional Republicans to claim his "reforms" led to the "saved" cash. Un-huh.

There will be more about this story and hopefully it will lead to some good somewhere down the road. At the very least, it may be the most significant evidence yet that discredits the idea that massive (unchecked) spending by the government works, that the government knows what it is doing, and that the answer to every ill is a knee-jerk reaction to siphon off families' hard earned money for centrally planned, government-run schemes. Somehow, we think, they'll still come back for more next year, having either still not learned their lesson, or displaying about $500 million worth of chutzpah.

Virginia Family Harassed By VDOT 11 Times Over Eminent Domain! But Virginia Senate Still Rejects Bill!

To add insult to injury, the Senate Finance Committee's rejection of HB 652 comes on top of this: A Virginia man and his family's farm have been condemned through eminent domain 11 times by VDOT over the years! But the Virginia Senate today, and over the last two weeks with its legislative game playing in the Courts of Justice Committee, has shown it cares not about your constitutional rights to property. By the way, the victim's attorney, Joe Waldo, was one of our expert witnesses during the entire legislative process. Be warned: This man's story is sure to make your blood boil. Remember, VDOT attached the "Fiscal Impact Statement" to HB 652 that effectively killed the bill.

VDOT's thirst for private property NEVER ends. Ask this poor man.

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.

Property Rights Bill Faces Key Senate Test Tomorrow!

Yesterday, we posted an update on HB 652, a bill that would allow property owners to present certain evidence to juries in eminent domain just compensation cases. The bill, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville), will be up tomorrow for a key vote at a 4:00 hearing in the Senate Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee. We don't know yet if the big government lobby will try to make a last stand to block or water down this important legislation in the Senate. Their attempt in the House failed. We and several allies are working hard to ensure the bill gets reported unamended. But, to give you a taste of what has happened in the past — and what may happen still — here is video of the hearing in the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Transportation. You will see a VDOT representative try to defend a speculative Fiscal Impact Statement designed to sink the bill because of alleged costs to the Commonwealth. Notice his nervousness. He knows the numbers don't fly (as we explained here).

The sub-committee didn't buy it either. It unanimously reported it to the full committee — which deals with all money bills and knows a red herring when it sees one — and which also reported it without a dissenting vote, thanks in large part to Chairman Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) who spoke some plain common sense during its final vetting. Then it passed the full House 98-1. But overwhelming numbers in one body has never stopped determined opposition from trying in the other chamber. Remember: Contacting committee members (see here) never hurts.

Constitutional property rights upheld in the House. Will the Senate follow tomorrow?

Beat Back Big Government And Protect Property Rights!

Thursday afternoon in the Senate Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee, a bill to allow people to receive just compensation when their property is taken by the government in eminent domain cases will be heard. The bill, HB 652, is supported by a broad coalition including The Family Foundation, the Farm Bureau, Tertium Quids (see comment here) and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.  The bill passed the House of Delegates 98-1, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything to the Senate. The patron of the bill is House Democrat Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) and is co-patroned by several Republicans.  It faces the forces of big government — VDOT and local governments who use our tax money to hire lobbyists to work against our interests — who forced the bill while in the House from the Courts of Justice Committee to the Appropriations Committee with a tactic designed to kill it. There is no doubt they will pull out all the stops in the Senate as well.

But we can beat them in the Senate, too: In the House Appropriations Transportation Sub-committee, Delegate Bob Tata (R-85, Virginia Beach), a senior member of the committee, said he HB 652 came to his attention after he received more e-mail on it than any other bill this session. It shows that actively engaged citizens truly have power!

The bill simply allows property owners to present evidence to juries that they deserve just compensation for land not taken in eminent domain cases, but rendered useless because of the taking of adjacent land.  Right now, people are compensated only for the land taken, not additional land that the taking has rendered unusable. The bill is a complement to the landmark 2007 eminent domain reform law that limits government abuse of people’s property rights.

This is a very fair, very needed and very just bill for families who own homes, small businesses and farms.  If government really needs your land, they should buy only what they need and not try to get more of it on the cheap. This bill costs government nothing — it only provides for a fair hearing as to what property owners are entitled to. Government agencies will retain their right to make their case as well. It’s about fairness! As Delegate Armstrong has said, 'The worst thing the government can do is take your life; the second worst thing it can do is take your property."

If you who think the 2007 law solved all eminent domain problems, a case in Roanoke from two years ago is still in the news (see From On High), where the Burkholder family is losing its small business to the city who wants its land, even though it has no plans for it! So, click here to contact members of the Senate Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee and ask them to vote for HB 652 in sub-committee this Thursday afternoon.

BREAKING: Big Win For Property Rights In Virginia

In what amounted to a sweep of a day-night double header today, HB 652, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville), a bill that would allow property owners to make a case to juries in just compensation hearings for damages incurred by land no longer accessible though not taken, swept by VDOT's objections and its speculative Fiscal Impact Statement in the House Appropriations Transportation Sub-committee by a 7-0 vote. It then swept through the full committee early this evening by a 22-0 vote and should now go on the uncontested calendar on the House floor early next week. This is a huge win in the effort to reform eminent domain laws in Virginia. We'll have more details on this, including video of VDOT's arguments, Monday.

Six Reasons Why The VDOT Fiscal Impact Is Incorrect And Why House Appropriations Should Side With Property Owners!

Six Reasons Why The VDOT Fiscal Impact Is Incorrect And

Why HB 652 Should Be Passed:

1. Coincidence and Conflict of Interest? HB 652 was filed January 12 and the Fiscal Impact Statement was not dropped until an hour before the full Courts of Justice Committee met on Wednesday, February 3, where it was in the uncontested bloc. In COJ Civil Sub-Committee, where VDOT lobbied against it, members voted 10-0 to report HB 652.

2. If VDOT believes having to pay for land rendered inaccessible will cost it $36 million over five years, then it is in fact admitting it has been cheating property owners for years and years.

3. It also is an admission that it wants to take property on the cheap by not officially "taking it" from the property owner, but letting him or her keep it, although it now has become useless.

4. If VDOT doesn’t want a fiscal impact, then it shouldn’t take the land, or take less than it really needs.

5. Under VDOT’s logic, The General Assembly would not have been able to pass the 2007 Eminent Domain Reform Bill: If it estimates the “cost” of HB 652 to be in the millions, it would have had to estimate the 2007 bill as a cost of trillions!

MOST IMPORTANT, AND WHY THIS FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT IS A NON-STARTER, AND WHY HB 652 SHOULD BE REPORTED:

6. The impact rationale is faulty and speculative at best: The bill requires NOTHING of VDOT — it only allows the property owner to present evidence to the jury. The jury MUST decide and VDOT still has the opportunity to make its case!

A bit of explanation: Fiscal Impact Statements are supposed to be for fixed costs, not speculative costs. But, what has us wondering, why don't these "Fiscal Impact Statements" ever measure the "impact" on the taxpayer?

Property Rights Win Big In House Sub-Committee Tonight!

A couple of hours ago, Virginia property owners won a big victory over government bureaucrats when the House Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee voted unanimously to report a bill to the full committee that would allow Virginians whose property is taken by eminent domain to present to juries a case for just compensation that would include property no longer accessible because of the taking. If the bill becomes law, a property owner who had 25 yards taken, but which rendered another 50 yards unusable, could then present that evidence to a jury and seek compensation for the entire 75 yards, rather than just the 25 yards. Although the vote was unanimous on HB 652, patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville), lobbyists representing taxpayer funded government entities such as VDOT and local governments (Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League) tried to take it to their bosses, the taxpayers, as they do every year. However, after closely considering an amendment to water down the bill, property rights members of the committee, such as Delegates Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond) and sub-committee Chairman Clay Athey (R-18, Front Royal), brought "the temperature of the committee" (a phrase used a lot around here) back to "hot" for the taxpayers. 

The bill now goes to the full committee on Friday! Please contact members of the House Courts of Justice Committee (click here) and ask them to report the bill to the House floor.

Virginia News Stand: November 13, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations Built From Scratch

The communications department threw in the towel today, not providing its share of material for the News Stand. What to do? Build one from scratch. Go to traditional sources for national news and for the state stuff — raid blogs! You know what? I think this is one of the best News Stands, ever. Please read it all as most are short, but with loads of enlightening info. The Post's Virginia Politics Blog provides self-explanatory headlines. Tertium Quids was a source of much to note, including a free-market health care plan that will be introduced at this year's General Assembly. It's about two pages compared to the 2,000-page PelosiCare federal version. The Shad Plank connected the links in a compelling post about a possible challenger to Representative Bobby Scott (D-3rd District), which is rare. 

Elsewhere, the T-D contributes one article — about Representative Tom Perriello's tele-townhall on his health care vote, while TQ reports on a different type of meeting in Danville between Tea Partiers and the congressman. It looks like Representative Glenn Nye committed a mortal leftist sin. We also have reports on Governor Kaine's out-of-state fundraising while Virginia gets flooded. A VDOT land grab is chronicled in TQ. Nationally, the ACLU is trying to force a high school into allowing a same-sex prom date and the RNC is dropping staff health insurance plans that cover elective abortions. In Analysis, Bernie Quigley of The Hill's Pundits Blog debuts here with a look at the Dems and the South, while AFA looks at naughty and nice retailers (which ones say "Merry Christmas" and which don't).

Finally, our friends at TQ provide something we don't know how to describe, but it has to do with Glenn Beck, so we created our first ever Feature category. Look it over for a good laugh.

News:

Perriello telephone town hall draws 8,000 (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Burning Perriello Effigy (Tertium Quids)

Nye Targeted From the Left (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

A challenger for Bobby Scott? (The Shad Plank)

McDonnell heads to Austin a GOP star (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Only 9th Street astir on quiet holiday (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

McDonnell, House Dems to meet (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

GOP criticizes Kaine for absence during storm (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

VDOT's costly attempt at a land grab (Tertium Quids)

Health Care Freedom for VA? (Tertium Quids)

National News:

GOP chairman ends abortion insurance for employees (AP/OneNewsNow.com)

ACLU defends lesbian student on prom issue (OneNewsNow.com

Evangelist gets 175 years for sex convictions (AP/OneNewsNow.com)

Analysis:

The South has won (Bernie Quigley/The Hill's Pundits Blog)

Retailers can be naughty or nice, too (OneNewsNow.com)

Governor's Travels (Tertium Quids

Feature: 

South Park does Glenn Beck (Tertium Quids)

Absolutely Nothing

As the Special Tax Session approached, we posed two poll questions, one of which asked, "What do you think will happen at the Special Tax Session of the General Assembly?" One choice we provided was "Absolutely nothing." As it happened, it won the polling with 36%, while some of the more pessimistic in the crowd thought some tax increase was imminent. As it turned out, the session ended with a wimper and, as some of us guessed — or at least hoped — absolutely nothing got done. Now, it appears His Excellency is jumping on the bandwagon, describing the session to the media with an attempt at hipness: "It was like a Seinfeld episode — a show about nothing." How clever.

But what did he expect? Special sessions are called when there is a consensus and all involved — both parties in both chambers and the executive — have some type of understanding as to what they want to do and agree to do. So he calls for a session, proposes a whopping statewide tax increase during trying economic times, and blames the other side. That's helpful.

If he was serious, there were three issues that — as with most commonsense solutions — are popular and could make great progress toward Virginia's transportation problems.

  1. The House voted 95-0 for HB 6023, an independent, outside audit of VDOT. Governor Kaine's friends in the Senate let it die in committee. How can we spend billions on new projects when we don't have a clue now (or else we wouldn't be in this condition, now would we?). Washington state did an audit of its transportation department and discovered overlap and duplication in planning, projects and bureaucracy (what's new there?); and misplaced priorities. It found simple solutions to correct problems that were thought to cost billions more. The savings? $18 billion — and Washington is a lot smaller than Virginia. (Tertium Quids has more here.)
  2. Senator Frank Wagner (R-7, Virginia Beach) had a proposal to take profits from the Port of Virginia — no tax money involved — and apply that money to transportation. Better still, HB 6055, which originally was loaded with tax increases for Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia residents, was smartly amended by Delegate Glenn Oder (R-94, Newport News) with input, our sources tell us, from Delegates Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown) and Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), to strip out all tax increases and use profits from the Virginia Port Authority and Dulles International and Reagan National Airports. Following the lead of Yankees may be painful to some down here, but New York and New Jersey do this successfully with their port revenue. After all, according to the governor, his mates in the Senate and the big business special interests, we need transportation to help facilitate the growth of our ports, right? These bills also died in Senate committees.
  3. As ever, a transportation fund lock box (HJ 6001). Let's constitutionally seal up that money so it can't be used for, say, new government run baby sitting programs. The governor, like other famous campaign promises, seems content not to act or, if he acts at all, it's counter to his campaign rhetoric. HJ 6001 was changed by the Senate and eventually died.

So, if nothing was done, who's to blame? Why is it "bipartisan" only to increase taxes but a "waste of time" to adopt other measures proven to work elsewhere? Why do liberals, who know so much, are such great problem solvers and are smarter than the rest of us, only know one solution for every problem? Good, commonsense, practical measures were defeated while liberals scream that their tax increase schemes died — even though they got a full debate in the Republican controlled House in contrast to the committee killing Senate actions. Besides, if nothing was done, it's not like we didn't tell you, governor; and with our wallets still intact, we're better off for this "nothing" as well. In this case, nothing is something, indeed: A win for hard-working, taxpaying families and individuals.

Floor Fireworks

The General Assembly convened today for its special "tax session," and the rhetorical fireworks started flying right away. After Governor Tim Kaine urged passage of his $1 billion tax hike while he addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, members of the House Republican caucus went on the attack. Delegate Kirk Cox, the majority whip, (R-66, Colonial Heights) ridiculed the governor's defense of the Virginia Department of Transportation. Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) criticized the governor for ignoring the financial difficulties of "average Virginians" while asking for higher taxes. He also kept up his attack on Kaine for being "absent" during this process, saying he is more interested in "campaigning for the Vice Presidency." 

House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem) ripped the Governor for failing to provide any leadership and bringing the GA back without having gotten consensus on a plan. Griffith was particularly critical of the governor's inability to find a Senate patron for his transportation bill (at least as of the beginning of today's session). "Normally we come to special sessions to close the deal, not start the debate," Griffith said.

Democrats supporting the tax hikes accused opponents of being "closed minded."

Consensus around the capitol is that no legislation will pass this week. Most believe that Kaine called the special session knowing the legislature would fail to pass his tax hike so he can use it as a campaign issue next year. That said, the debate should be interesting — and the rhetorical battle is probably just getting started.