It's hard to believe that just four people hold the fate of protecting the property rights of all Virginians, but that is the number of votes needed to pass or kill a proposed property rights amendment to the Virginia Constitution in the seven member Senate Privileges and Elections Sub-committee on Constitutional Amendments (see members here). A previous Senate resolution this session died on a 4-3 vote in this sub-committee and now the House version, passed 81-19 by that body, will be heard tomorrow morning in a liberty or death vote — it must pass in order for the full committee to hear the bill and to have a chance to get to the Senate floor (where it would have a good chance of passing).

Please contact members of the committee and ask them to vote to report HJ 693 to the full committee! Ask them to listen to the will of the people and protect your property rights.

While the Virginia Senate has proved to be a roadblock for property rights and reform of government’s oppressive power of eminent domain, Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed HJ 693, a state constitutional amendment 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, tomorrow morning, the Senate sub-committee will have a choice: listen to local governments and unelected housing and redevelopment authorities or the people they represent.

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. Whether urban, suburban or rural, Virginians are subject to losing their homes, farms, and family-run or small businesses to dubious "economic development" schemes, "revitalization" plans and government pork and boondoggle projects without this vital constitutional protection.

Without secure property rights, we only borrow our property from the government until it needs it; we have no security for our families, economic advancement or even to practice our faith. While government will always be here, our homes, businesses and places of worship have not such guarantee.

While many states rushed to grant their citizens state constitutional protections after the Kelo ruling, Virginians have waited six years for the Virginia Senate to act! This amendment must pass the Senate this year and both chambers again next year so Virginians can then vote on it at the ballot box in 2012. If it fails Tuesday, we must wait at least three more years – and we’ve already waited six!

Virginia passed a law in 2007 in response to Kelo, but 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 (HJ 693) can provide.