|Questions deal with eminent domain, dates for veto session|
Friday, November 2, 2012
By KEN BRADLEY - Staff Writer
When Franklin County voters go to the polls on Tuesday, they will have the opportunity to vote on two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution.
The two proposed amendments are in the form of a question. Voters can vote "yes" or "no."
Question 1 asks:
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?
According to the Virginia State Board of Elections, this issue surfaced in a 2005 Connecticut case when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the taking of private property and its transfer to a private business for economic development purposes. However, the court also said that states could restrict the use of eminent domain.
That's what Virginia did in 2007 when the General Assembly enacted a section of the Virginia Code to set limits on eminent domain powers.
Under that Code (1-291.1), no more private property may be taken than is necessary for the stated public use, the public interest for the taking must outweigh any private gain, and private property cannot be taken for certain economic development primary purposes, such as increasing the tax base, revenues or employment.
Since limits in the Code can be changed by any future General Assembly, lawmakers want to ensure its continued use by amending the state Constitution.
If approved by voters, the proposed amendment could only be changed by a future constitutional amendment approved by voters.
The proposed amendment, the Board of Elections states, includes that the right to private property is a "fundamental" right, the taking or damaging of private property must be for a "public use" and that no more property may be taken or damaged than is necessary for the stated public use.
Question 2 asks:
Shall Section 6 of Article IV (Legislature) of the Constitution of Virginia concerning legislative sessions be amended to allow the General Assembly to delay by not more than one week the fixed starting date for the reconvened or "veto" session when the General Assembly meets after a session to consider the bills returned to it by the Governor with vetoes or amendments?
According to the state Board of Elections, the only substantive change made in the current process by the proposed amendment would be to allow the General Assembly to delay the start of the veto session for up to one week.
By being able to use the extra delay, the General Assembly would be able to avoid the possible scheduling of the veto session on a religous holiday, such as Passover.
Currently, the veto session must start on the sixth Wednesday following the end of each session of the General Assembly. The extra week would give the legislature a little leeway.