Update: Senate Passes Property Rights Constitutional Amendment!Feb. 22, 2011
A couple of hours ago, the Virginia Senate passed by a 35-5 vote, a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would protect private property rights and curb the government's power of eminent domain. Don't be deceived by the vote. Often, at the General Assembly, legislation with the largest vote margins were the most difficult to pass, with twists and turns, near-deaths, deaths and resurrections. All could be said of this resolution. While it does not have the iron clad language on just compensation as it did coming out of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, ironically, it still goes beyond the House version and does guarantee just compensation for "lost profits" and "lost access" — but it leaves it to the General Assembly to legislate those definitions (which means more work to be done next session!).
Now the resolution goes back to the House of Delegates since it was changed from its version. Acceptance of the Senate's amendments is almost a certainty, with House members openly eager and excited about the opportunity to vote on something given little chance in the hostile Senate when session started, and stronger than when it left the House! (No need to risk going to a conference committee, especially after the Senate has killed attempts for years, including earlier this year.) Just goes to show . . . anything can happen at the General Assembly and nothing should surprise anyone.
Opponents will say they got what they wanted out of it but the truth is they wanted none of this. They lost. Liberty and limited government won today! Never underestimate the influence of an election year. This played out similarly to the eminent domain reform statute the last time the Senate was up for election, in 2007.
Next steps: The resolution must be passed again by the new General Assembly next session — with no changes. That done, it will go to Virginians to ratify at the polls in November 2012.
More to come later. However, we cannot go any further without a bit of thanks — a bit, only, because it is impossible to adequately thank him — to the resolution's patron, Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth). Without his determination, legislative skills and persuasive public oratory (we will have video later), we would very likely have to wait another three years (for a total of nine) without the possibility of property rights protection since the infamous and deplorable Supreme Court Kelo decision.
Senate Property Rights Vote Delayed; Contact Your Senator If You Already Haven't!Feb. 17, 2011
I was hoping to write about a smashing, never-in-a-million-years-possible victory on property rights protection tonight; about how we were one step closer to enshrinement that fundamental right into the Virginia Constitution. However, the Senate delayed the vote on HJ 693 (Delegate Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth) until tomorrow. This one day delay gives you another chance to contact your senator, if you have not already done so, and ask him or her to vote to ensure this basic, fundamental right: To own property — for family, business or farm, or any legal reason — and not fear the government's power of eminent domain, where it can take it and hand it over to a corporation because it can produce more tax revenue than your house or business. The right to own property, and be justly compensated for it if a true public need requires a government taking, is a requisite tool to preserve individual liberty and curb the growth and intrusiveness of government. It also is a matter of basic fairness: Some localities in the past have taken entire neighborhoods on the pretext that one or two houses were "blighted" and sold to developers for huge amounts of money.
We strongly urge you to contact your senator now. It will be a close, but winnable vote. This is historic — the Virginia Senate has not taken up such a measure in recent memory. People who believe that government has become too big in size and scope now must take only a few moments to click below and make their voices heard to their elected representatives. This is our moment. If this vote fails, we will have to wait at least three more years for the opportunity to vote at the ballot box for a state constitutional amendment to guarantee this precious and God-given right.
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 of a historic victory. Securing private property rights ensures stable families, jobs, farms and even the right to worship freely. Let's beat back the special interests and local governments once and for all and ask your senator to represent you, not government.
Politicians come and go. The courts are unpredictable. The only permanent protections of our rights are those in the Virginia and U.S. Constitutions. Please act to ensure them now.