Tomorrow morning, the constitutional right to own property in Virginia without fear of government seizure (eminent domain) is on the line in the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Please contact members of the committee and urge them to report HJ 647 and/or HJ 693. Read here for the details.
Posts Tagged ‘private property rights’
Tomorrow morning, the House Privileges and Elections Committee will consider a number of important constitutional amendments. Please contact committee members at the link above and encourage a vote for all three resolutions.
One, HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), will safeguard Virginians’ tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases in the budget bill. If those revenues are needed, delegates and senators should have the courage to vote on tax increases separately, up or down, not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function.
Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania) has two resolutions before the committee. One, HJ 540, will limit the amount state and local government can spend each year to the previous year’s budget, plus the percentage increase in population and inflation. This is a proven way to limit the size and scope of government. His second resolution, HJ 539, would require a super majority vote by the General Assembly and local governing boards to impose a tax increase.
The fourth resolution, and a major priority by several limited government advocates, is HJ 647, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville). It passed sub-committee by one vote and its full committee vote was delayed a week. In committee and behind the scenes, local government interests, who use taxpayers’ hard-earned money to lobby against their own citizens, and large utilities and telecoms, are throwing every resource they have to defeat this proposal. Afraid of allowing Virginians to vote on the issue of protecting their own property, these special interests think property is private only until such time as they need it for their redevelopment schemes or transportation boondoggles. No less than 10 government and corporate special interests testified against the resolution in sub-committee, with only The Family Foundation, The Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council speaking in favor.
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its deplorable Kelo decision several years ago (see Examiner.com’s Kenneth Schortgen for a new, heinous eminent domain case), it said federal courts could not protect property owners from local and state governments. But it did rule that states could protect their citizens and basically invited states to enact their own protections. Most states did. Why are Virginians still waiting for their legislature to act?
These much needed policies will protect Virginia families’ homes, farms and businesses; enact honest state budgets; and put a limit on out of control taxing and spending. Together, these proposed constitutional amendments form a unique opportunity to reform state and local government, limit its power and focus it on its proper role.
That’s not a typo. We have multiple Quotes of the Day today. One, this morning, occurred in the House Education Sub-committee on Standards of Quality. It was considering a bill from Delegate John O’Bannon (R-73, Henrico) on childhood obesity that would require additional physical education for students K-8. Pat Lacey, the ever present spokesman for the umbrella Educrat coalition, which can’t seem to approve of anything except more taxpayer money for any and all problems, and which makes nothing but excuses and obstacles for why education reforms can’t happen, extended the never say yes philosophy even to phys ed reform!
When he addressed the committee to say some elementary schools may not have the gyms to accommodate inclement weather, sub-committee chairman Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge) said:
At VMI we didn’t have that problem!
Later in the morning, in the Senate Privileges and Elections Sub-committee on Constitutional Amendments, a government lobbyist for Fairfax County, which used the hard-earned tax’ money of its own citizens to lobby against them, testified against Senator Mark Obenshain’s (R-26, Harrisonburg) proposed constitutional amendment to protect private property rights. She gave an example regarding the difficulty the amendment would create in taking land for certain municipal projects, which led to this exchange between her and Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath), the sub-committee’s chairman, who was preparing to lead a party line vote to defeat property rights protection:
Senator Deeds: But that’s the part of the bill I like!
Fairfax lobbyist: Okay . . . I’ll sit down now.
Also from that committee: VACO and VML lobbyist Randy Cook — VACO and VML are the lobbying arms of Virginia’s counties and cities, respectively, which pay people like him with your hard earned tax money to lobby against your rights — said that a constitutional amendment isn’t necessary because they haven’t challenged the condemnation powers of the 2007 property rights statute . . . yet. To which Senator Obenshain later replied:
VACO said, ‘Stop me before I condemn (property) again.’
Three Quotes of the Day. All humorous. All pointing, however, to something much more serious.
The pace remained settled in Capitol Square today as committees in the two chambers prepare for the grind of hearings next week on bills passed in each other’s chamber. We’ve reported on a number of successes over the first half of session, both in good bills that passed and bad bills killed. Also in the mix are three proposed constitutional amendments we support, all of which passed the House earlier this week and now begin their trials in the Senate.
To amend the constitution of Virginia, a proposed amendment must pass the General Assembly in exactly the same form — a comma can’t even be changed — in two sessions with an intervening statewide election, and then approved by the voters in a statewide ballot. So it’s nearly a three-year process. It’s not the easiest thing to do, as we know from the Marriage Amendment.
HJ 725, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albermarle) would provide protection from the government’s power of eminent domain, and protect the 2007 law protecting private property rights from tampering by future General Assemblies. That law was a reaction to the deplorable U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision, which allowed a local government to take private property and give it to developers. Just as the Marriage Amendment was needed to protect Virginia’s marriage statutes, the 2007 law needs constitutional protection. This session alone has seen two bills that would have weakened it (we were able to amend them into acceptable bills). So it is obvious this constitutional protection is needed.
HJ 789, patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond) would limit spending to the preceding year’s total appropriations plus an amount equal to the percentage increase of inflation plus population growth. It makes exceptions to provide tax relief, deposits to the “Rainy Day Fund” and nonrecurring capital projects. With state spending increasing more than 80 percent over the last 10 years, we need this constitutional protection from the big spenders in Richmond. What family budget has grown that much that fast?
HJ 620, patroned by Delegate Glen Oder (R-94, Newport News), is another protection against greedy government big spenders. It would put all tax revenues designated by law for transportation in a “lock box” so that they cannot be spent on earmarks, pork or for other areas of the budget, only for the big spenders to claim they need more money for transportation. This way, we know that our hard-earned tax money is going to where lawmakers say it is going. Then, and only then, if they need more money for transportation, can they in good conscience ask us for a tax increase.
All three of these commonsense and much needed reforms and protections will be heard in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee (get members’ contact info here), perhaps as early as next week. Please contact the committee members to urge them to report these resolutions to the Senate floor.
One of the many legislative victories of which we have been a part during recent years, and one in which we are most proud, is the 2007 eminent domain reform law. Proud for a number of reasons: It righted a grievous wrong and demonstrated that when we stand on principle and work hard, much can be accomplished; we were part of a large coalition that fought the entrenched corporate and bureaucratic interests and proved that good really can come out of the legislative system; and because so many of you faithfully stayed engaged and kept up the pressure on legislators as the story of the legislation took more twists in the tale than the Crooked Road in our Great Southwest.
Bills patroned by Senators Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), Steve Newman (R-23, Forest), Delegates Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville) and Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth), and others helped overturn the effects of the deplorable Kelo vs. New London, Conn. decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which allowed governments to take private property, often family owned homes and businesses, and give it to large corporations. The bills were passed — after much redrafting and debate (one powerful senator said property rights are not in the constitution!) — by overwhelming majorities in both chambers and signed into law, somewhat reluctantly, and with a few slight amendments, by Governor Tim Kaine.
While the law has immensely improved property protections for Virginia families who own homes and family-owned businesses, it still doesn’t go far enough as evidenced by “quick takes” of local governing bodies. Nor are its protections fool-proof since a future General Assembly can change the law. Don’t think it can happen? Jeremy Hopkins, in a study he authored for the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, documents Virginia’s lapse from a leading private property state that cherished and constitutionally protected individual property rights, to one of the weakest in the union prior to the 2007 legislation (click here). (This study was the “Bible” for those of us who worked on this bill in 2007. The state’s power over the fruits of you labor will frighten you.)
Hopkins underscores the foundational importance of private property rights to a democratic society:
Finally, the right to private property undergirds and protects all other rights. It truly is “the guardian of every other right.” A cursory review of the Bill of Rights reveals that many of the rights Americans cherish have little significance without the recognition and protection of private property. Not only do many of these rights presume the right to private property, but these rights have little meaning without the right to private property.
For instance, what good is the right to free speech if one has no property from which to speak freely? What good is the right to free speech if the government owns all printing presses and all means of recording, producing, and dispensing speech? What good is the right to assemble and petition the government if one has no property on which to freely assemble and petition? What good is the right to worship freely if one has no property on which to freely worship? What good is the right to worship freely if the state owns the church, employs the clergymen, and prints all religious material?
For an absolute guarantee of secure property rights in Virginia tougher measures are needed and they need to be put into the constitution. Some of the same lawmakers noted above are interested in proposing such an amendment this coming session. It’s never too early to encourage your delegates and senators to support such constitutional protections (click here).
To get an update on the status of eminent domain in Virginia — and your rights — read this post and hear this interview with Hopkins from the blog Tertium Quids (click here). Just as with any right, to secure it, we must stay informed and active.