A state constitutional amendment to protect private property rights is one step closer to getting on November's ballot.
Tuesday, the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 13-2 in favor of SJ 3 and sent the bill to the full Senate floor. The legislation tightens the definition of public use and requires just compensation for owners whose property has been taken using eminent domain.
"Our members are appreciative that the committee recognizes the need to place private property rights in our constitution," said Trey Davis, assistant director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. "This legislation is not only for farmers; it also will help protect homeowners, business owners and any other landowner in Virginia."
SJ 3 and its companion House bill, HJ 3, passed in last year's General Assembly. HJ 3 is being considered by the House Privileges and Elections Committee and needs to be approved without any changes before continuing to the full House, Davis said.
For a constitutional amendment to be enacted, a bill must pass in the General Assembly two years in a row with the exact same wording. If the bill passes in 2012 as it did in 2011, it will go before Virginia voters in November.
"We have every reason to believe that this legislation will pass this year," Davis said.
Farm Bureau has been calling for a constitutional amendment for the past several years.
The proposed amendment has three key parts: Public entities can take private property for public use only; the entities cannot take more land than is necessary for that public use; and landowners must be justly compensated.