Two rivals for the post of Virginia Attorney General are now allies in the effort to add property rights protection to the state constitution.
State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-SD26) of Harrisonburg and Delegate Rob Bell (R-HD58) of Charlottesville have both stated their intentions to seek the Republican nomination to succeed Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has, in turn, said he will run for Governor in 2013.
At the same time, this week Obenshain and Bell both relaunched efforts to add an amendment to the Virginia constitution that will protect the rights of property owners against the abuse of eminent domain authority by state and local governments.
Constitutional amendment process
The amendment passed both the House of Delegates and the state Senate in the 2011 legislative session. It must pass with identical language in the 2012 session before it goes before the voters as a ballot measure in the election of November 6, 2012. It is up to the voters to provide final approval of the amendment so that it becomes part of Virginia’s basic law.
In an email to constituents and supporters, Bell explained why he had introduced House Joint Resolution 3:
“As you probably know,” he wrote, “preserving property rights and fighting abusive use of eminent domain has been a very hot subject, especially since the Supreme Court’s infamous 2005 ruling in Kelo v. New London. In Kelo, the Court held that a local government could take private property from a homeowner and transfer it to a private company in the name of promoting economic development. Homeowners have been justifiably concerned that this ruling is so broad that it empowers the government to take anyone’s land for any nebulous ‘public purpose.’”
Obenshain announced his own initiative on Facebook, in a news release describing a speech he made before the Farm Bureau, one of the constituent groups with a keen interest in eminent domain reform.
“This amendment protects private property owners by limiting takings to public use, and fleshes out what ‘just compensation’ means by ensuring that owners aren’t left, uncompensated, with a devalued residue of land, and do not have their profits wiped out without restitution,” he said, adding, “No government should ever have the authority to take someone’s property just because they think they have a better use for it in mind.”
Obenshain’s bill is styled SJ 3.
In interviews with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner during the 2011 General Assembly session, both Bell and Obenshain explained their reasons for introducing bills to advance property rights protection. In a separate interview, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli offered his own, similar views on the matter.
On the other side of the aisle, Charlottesville Delegate David Toscano (D-HD57), now the House Minority Leader, explained his opposition to eminent domain reform in another interview.
Rob Bell and Mark Obenshain will each host a hospitality suite at this weekend’s Republican Party of Virginia Advance at The Homestead resort in Hot Springs, as they begin to solicit support for their campaigns for statewide office from GOP activists.