RICHMOND—Producer members of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation are asking their state senators and delegates to support HJR 693, the first step toward a constitutional amendment to reinforce eminent domain laws.
The resolution’s patron is Del. Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth.
"One condition of being able to farm profitably is having private property, whether you own it or rent it," explained Trey Davis, VFBF political education and legislative specialist. "Virginia’s farmers have a long-standing professional and personal interest in property rights issues, including protection from eminent domain abuse. Our members strongly believe Virginia’s constitution should be amended to ensure that protection."
In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly closed statutory loopholes in state law to clarify and strictly define "public use" as it pertains to eminent domain, providing that property can be taken only when the public interest dominates the private gain. The new law specified that private property cannot be appropriated by government for private financial gain, an increase in tax base or revenues or an increase in employment opportunities.
"While the 2007 statutory revisions can help ensure protection of private property, a court decision could overturn the statute, or a simple majority vote in both bodies of the assembly could reverse it," Davis noted. "A constitutional amendment mirroring the statute adds another safeguard."
To amend the state constitution, the General Assembly must pass a resolution with the wording of the amendment in two consecutive years. After that, the proposed amendment goes on a November ballot, where it must be approved by a majority of voters.
Contact Davis at 804-290-1017.