Eminent Domain is an issue that people don’t consider until it affects them. This is an issue addressed in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This power means that government, whether it is federal, state or local, has the ability to take private land by court ruling, as long as the person is given fair market compensation. The U.S. Supreme Court made a controversial ruling, in 2005, with Kelo v. City of New London. The ruling stated that this power wasn’t limited for taking land for schools or roads, but could be taken for private commercial development. This has been used by local communities to get land for companies like Wal-Mart.
The Republican controlled Virginia General Assembly has taken a proactive stance on this issue. Senate Bill 240 and House Bill 5 work on the issue of property being taken for “private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development, except for the elimination of a public nuisance existing on the property.”The amendment was written with the help of the Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The Attorney General’s belief is “Life, liberty, and property are fundamental rights. The ownership of private property is one of the necessary foundations for a free society. “
The Attorney General’s stance is well defined by his words. “I successfully sponsored a law in 2007 that protects homeowners, farmers, and business owners from having their property taken by government and handed over to a private entity just to increase tax revenues or create jobs. For example, the law stops a city from taking a local family business or a series of homes and turning the land over to a private developer so a big box store can be built. If the box store wants to be there, it’s the developer’s job to make a convincing offer to the landowners; it’s not the city’s job to force people out of their homes or farms for the developer.”
He also has talked on his work for this amendment. “Although that 2007 law was a major step forward in the protection of private property rights in the commonwealth, because it’s only a law, it can be chipped away by future sessions of the General Assembly, putting the homes, farms, and businesses of Virginia’s citizens in jeopardy once again. Legislators have said that if the law posed too much trouble for localities wanting to confiscate land, that the General Assembly would change it. So the law needs to be enshrined in Virginia’s constitution to protect it from the whims of politicians who favor dollar signs over individual rights. If property rights protections are in the constitution, the only way they can be changed is by a vote of the people. Last year, I helped write a property rights constitutional amendment that passed its first hurdle and was approved by the General Assembly.”
This is also an issue that the Hampton Roads Tea Party is behind. They recently took a bus trip to Richmond in support of this issue as told to the Examiner by the Chairman, David Donis.