Eminent domain amendment important to Virginia farmers
December 31, 2008
HARRISONBURG—As mid-January approaches, lawmakers and their constituents are readying themselves for a busy legislative season. One issue on the table, eminent domain, won’t put a pinch on the state’s already-tight budget, but it will make a difference to all Virginians who own property, according to one state senator.
“This isn’t just an issue important to farmers, but to anyone who owns real estate anywhere where there is a possibility of local or state government deciding they could use your property better than you can,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, who is working with the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation to amend the state constitution with regard to eminent domain.
“That scenario is dangerous, and we have seen plenty of examples of that taking place in Virginia.”
Any entity that has eminent domain authority can utilize it only if it is for a public use as redefined by the Virginia General Assembly in 2007. The constitutional amendment would more permanently protect the reforms to that definition.
Before the amendment goes before voters, it must pass the General Assembly twice with an intervening election. If that occurs, citizens of the commonwealth will have an opportunity to vote on it.
If it fails at any point, the process starts over, delaying the vote by citizens for another two years.
“This is not the first time we have fought this fight," Obenshain said. "We are facing some of the same challenges we saw before.
“If property owners and citizens can do anything to help, they need to contact their legislators and tell them this is important to them—demand that their House of Delegates member or their state senator support this constitutional amendment, because it will make a difference for all Virginians.”
Other priority issues for the Farm Bureau this session include state funding for best management practices, land preservation and Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Contact information for state legislators is available online at http://legis.state.va.us.
Contact Martha Moore, VFBF governmental relations director, at 804-290-1013