Nov. 6 ballot will include crucial property rights vote in Virginia
September 20, 2012
RICHMOND—Virginians will have a chance to make a historic vote Nov. 6 when they go to the polls. They’ll be voting on whether to lock in their private property rights under the Virginia constitution and curb the potential for eminent domain abuse.
It’s an important issue to consider before stepping into the voting booth, said Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli.
“Every Virginian should be concerned with protecting property rights,” Cuccinelli said in a video blog posted on the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation website. “This is an individual right. It was so important to Patrick Henry, George Mason and James Monroe (that they) voted against the U.S. Constitution over 200 years ago because it didn’t include property rights protections and other protections for individuals.”
Farm Bureau is a leading supporter of the proposed property rights amendment, which has been in development for seven years. Just bringing the amendment to a public vote was a two-year process in the General Assembly.
Approval of Question 1 on the November ballot would incorporate current law into the Virginia constitution, ensuring it could not be easily changed, according to Trey Davis, VFBF assistant director of governmental relations. “Basically it states that private property may only be taken under eminent domain by government or utilities for public use, excluding any possibility of land being condemned for private benefit,” Davis said. “It also requires just compensation to landowners, not only for their property, but also for lost economic opportunities if the taking limits their business practices. And it prohibits taking any more property than is necessary for the public project.”
Government “is often a bully,” Cuccinelli said in the video interview. “And bullies don’t often go after people their own size; they go after little people that they can push around. When was the last time you saw Walmart trying to defend its property rights? You never see that, because they’re quite capable of doing it. It’s when (condemning authorities) come after a few homeowners; it’s when they come after one farmer, one business owner—and this has happened in Virginia for 50 years. And this constitutional amendment, if the voters vote for it and pass it, will help protect individual Virginians in their own homes, in their businesses and on their farms.”
Cuccinelli added that the power of eminent domain is necessary and needed for communities to grow and for essential services to be provided. But over the years, the balance has shifted to where a homeowner or smaller-scale property owner has to sue to get fair compensation or to limit the amount of land taken. That trend can be reversed with the proposed amendment, he added.
“Only the citizens can amend the state constitution, and the only place they can do it is at the ballot box.”
Contact Davis at 804-290-1017, Brian Gottsein in the attorney general’s office at 804-786-5874 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.