Va. amendments also on the ballot

Posted: October 29, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Along with congressional races and the presidential contest, Virginia voters will also decide Nov. 6 whether to add two amendments to the state Constitution.

Question 1, proposed by Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, and state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, will ask if the voter supports more restrictions on the taking of private property by the government.

The issue has been thrust to the forefront since a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that granted government the authority to take private property for economic development projects.

In 2007, the General Assembly and then-Gov. Tim Kaine outlawed the practice — which is why some opponents say the amendment is unnecessary.

Proponents argue that property ownership is a fundamental right and should be protected in the Constitution, not left to the whims of legislators.

The question reads: “Shall Section 11 of Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended (i) to require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development; (ii) to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and (iii) to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use?”

Opponents argue that the amendment will hinder public projects, clog the courts and cost more.

Supporters believe it will ensure that private property will only be taken for true public use, and not taken and then given to another private landowner. It will also guarantee adequate compensation for the loss of value to a property and that only property that is absolutely necessary will be taken.

The second proposed amendment to the Constitution — Question 2 — would allow the General Assembly to delay a reconvened session, during which legislators meet to consider bills vetoed or amended by the governor.

According to state Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, the amendment “would allow the House and Senate modest flexibility to delay the start of the Veto Session by up to seven days for the simple reason that Easter week often conflicts with the current Veto Session calendar and many who work in Richmond wish to be with their families for Easter.”

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com