Resolution strengthens property rights
This land is my land — not your land.
Virginians’ private property rights would be more secure under a resolution passed by the General Assembly to restrict the government’s eminent domain powers. The resolution seeks to amend the Virginia Constitution to strengthen property right protections.
Gov. Bob McDonnell said passage of the resolution last week “is a step in the right direction and is a long time coming.”
“For too long, government and certain business interests colluded to make it possible to take the land of one landowner and give it to another, merely for the purpose of increasing tax revenue or employment or for private gain,” the governor said.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 35-5 for House Joint Resolution 693. The following day, the House gave its final approval of the measure, 83-15. If the General Assembly passes the resolution again next year, voters will consider the constitutional amendment in a statewide referendum in 2012.
As a state legislator in 2007, McDonnell sponsored a proposal similar to HJ 693, but it failed.
“Every year since then, the General Assembly and special interests have attempted to chip away at those protections,” McDonnell said. “That is why there was a need to put these very fundamental rights in the Virginia Constitution and protect them from the political whims of future legislatures.”
Just two weeks earlier, the Senate had defeated a motion to consider HJ 693 on a party-line vote, with all 22 Democratic senators opposing the measure.
But last week in the Senate, 17 Democrats joined all 18 Republicans to approve the resolution. The reversal came after the measure was approved by one-vote margins by both a subcommittee of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee and by the full committee.
HJ 693 was sponsored by Delegate Johnny Joannou, a Democrat from Portsmouth. It would add these words to the state Constitution:
“The General Assembly shall pass no law whereby private property, the right to which is fundamental, shall be damaged or taken except for public use.”
“No private property shall be damaged or taken for public use without just compensation to the owner thereof.”
“No more private property may be taken than necessary to achieve the stated public use.”
“Just compensation shall be no less than the value of the property taken, business goodwill and access lost, damages to the residue caused by the taking, and damages to adjacent property caused by the taking.”
“A public service company, public service corporation, or railroad exercises the power of eminent domain for public use when such exercise is for the authorized provision of utility, common carrier, or railroad services.”
“In all other cases, a taking or damaging of private property is not for public use if the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development, except for the elimination of a public nuisance existing on the property.”
“The condemnor bears the burden of proving that the use is public, without a presumption that it is.”
According to McDonnell, the resolution will ensure that “the cost of taking private property be borne by the public, not the individual property owner.”
“The public at large benefits from the property, and so it should bear the total cost, which includes compensating landowners for loss of profits when businesses are forced to move, and loss of access when property is taken which gave a landowner access to his land,” McDonnell said.
Before the legislative session began, the state’s Republican leadership said it would push for protecting the property rights of Virginians. This was a priority for McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Senate and House Republicans, noted Sen. Thomas Norment Jr., R-Williamsburg.
Sen. Stephen Newman, R-Lynchburg, chairman of the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, said the resolution’s passage was a major victory for all Virginians dedicated to ensuring private property rights.
“It is also an important victory for Senate Republicans,” Newman said. “Our persistence and commitment have paid off.”
Legislators see the proposed constitutional amendment as a corrective to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Conn. In that case, the court ruled 5-4 that the power of eminent domain could be used to transfer land from one private owner to another to further economic development.
Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr., R- Mount Solon, said the constitutional protections would have the greatest impact on Virginia’s farming communities.
“Even before the Kelo decision made this a national issue, leaders in rural communities and agribusiness were advocating measures to limit eminent domain,” Hanger said.
“The passage of this amendment is great news for rural Virginians.”
To track or comment on House Joint Resolution 693, visit http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hj693
Richmonders Jim Morgan and Dan Stackhouse were married at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside Mar. 7 month after winning the Say I Do! With OutRVA wedding contest in February. The contest was open to LGBT couples in recognition of Virginia’s marriage equality law, which took effect last fall. The wedding included a package valued at $25,000.
Morgan and Stackhouse, who became engaged last fall on the day marriage equality became the law in Virginia, have been together for 16 years. They were selected from among 40 couples who registered for the contest. The winners were announced at the Say I Do! Dessert Soiree at the Renaissance in Richmond in February. > Read more.
The Fourth Annual Healy Gala will be held Saturday, Apr. 11, at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The event was created to honor Michael Healy, a local businessman and community leader who died suddenly in June 2011, and to endow the Mike Healy Scholarship (through the Glen Allen Ruritan Club), which benefits students of Glen Allen High School.
Healy served as the chairman of Glen Allen Day for several years and helped raise thousands of dollars for local charities and organizations. > Read more.
The Richmond Battlefield Ruritan Club is holding a Brunswick stew sale, with orders accepted through March 13 and pick-up available March 14. The cost is $8 per quart.
Pick-up will be at noon, March 14, at the Richmond Heights Civic Center, 7440 Wilton Road in Varina.
To place an order, call Mike at (804) 795- 7327 or Jim at (804) 795-9116. > Read more.
Disney’s no-frills, live-action ‘Cinderella’ delights
Cinderella is the latest from Disney’s new moviemaking battle plan: producing live-action adaptations of all their older classics. Which is a plan that’s had questionable results in the past.
Alice in Wonderland bloated with more Tim Burton goth-pop than the inside of a Hot Topic. Maleficent was a step in the right direction, but the movie couldn’t decide if Maleficent should be a hero or a villain (even if she should obviously be a villain) and muddled itself into mediocrity.
Cinderella is much better. Primarily, because it’s just Cinderella. No radical rebooting. No Tim Burton dreck. It’s the 1950 Disney masterpiece, transposed into live action and left almost entirely untouched. > Read more.
The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen’s 2nd Stage series will present “An Evening of Country” with The Honky Tonk Experience, April 9-10 at 7 p.m. in the center’s Cardinal Ballroom.
Formed in the spring of 2003, The Honky Tonk Experience performs country classics and current country music, from Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings to Dwight Yoakam and Dale Watson. The “Experience” is composed of five local musicians – Brad Spivey, Mike Lucas, Mark Watts, Clark Ball and Ryland Tinnell. The group has shared the stage with several national acts, including Travis Tritt, BR5-49, Dale Watson, Webb Wilder and Junior Brown. > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
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CalendarThe Henrico County Community Author Showcase, a program that connects writers and readers in the community, will begin at 7 p.m. and continue on Thursdays at various libraries. Hilary Dixon… Full text