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
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


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Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will screen NT Live’s broadcast of “Hedda Gabler” at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall, Booker Hall of Music. Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair, Jane Eyre) plays the title role in a new version by Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal, Closer). NT Live brings the best of British theatre direct from the stages of London to movie theatres around the world. Tickets are $7 to $14. For details, call 289-8980 or visit http://www.modlin.richmond.edu. Full text

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