From Senator Mark Obenshain: Virginia Property Rights Amendment Passes Senate!

This is a day late. Nonetheless, it contains information you probably will not find in the news. Here and here are news articles.

For Immediate Release
February 13, 2012

Obenshain’s Property Rights Amendment Passes Senate  

SJ 3 and Companion Legislation Will Protect Property Against Eminent Domain Abuse, Ensure Just Compensation for Lawful Takings

RICHMOND — Today, the Senate passed the Property Rights Amendment patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) along with chief co-patron Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), ensuring that eminent domain takings will be limited to true public uses, and that just compensation is awarded.

To pass a constitutional amendment, the amendment must be approved by the General Assembly twice in succeeding years and in exactly the same form. Then the amendment must be approved at the ballot box by the voters.

Senate Joint Resolution 3, the second reference of a proposed constitutional amendment reforming eminent domain, passed the Senate on a 23-17 vote.  In related action, opponents of the amendment attempted to derail companion bills SB 240, legislation placing the amendment on the ballot for ratification by the voters, and SB 437, defining lost profits and lost access for purposes of just compensation, were resisted by the Senate.

“The passage of this is a great victory for property owners in Virginia.  This has been a long and arduous path, but this fall – Good Lord willing – the voters of Virginia will be given a chance to vote on adding these protections to the Constitution, where they belong.  Respect for private property is a foundational principle of free government,” said Obenshain. “The Property Rights Amendment will secure property rights against the whims of state and local governments, ensuring that private property can only be taken for legitimate public uses – not economic development or the pet projects of government officials.”

“The fight over the Property Rights Amendment was contentious at times, but in the end, a bipartisan cross section of the Senate came together in recognition of the importance of preserving private property,” Obenshain added.

Obenshain’s SJ 3 restricts the government’s power of eminent domain by limiting takings to cases of public use, barring so-called “Kelo-style” takings for the purpose of economic development or other transfers from one private party to another. The amendment also strengthens the definition of “just compensation” to include lost profits and lost access.

“Even when a taking is justified, it is the government’s responsibility to compensate the property owner justly, and the Property Rights Amendment and SB 437 will help to ensure that all the landowner’s losses are taken into account in determining just compensation,” said Obenshain, referring to the Amendment and to legislation defining lost profits and lost access for purposes of compensation in condemnation proceedings. SB 437, the result of extensive negotiations, is supported by groups advocating for eminent domain reform as well as Virginia’s leading utility corporations, and ensures that governments and utilities will continue to have the flexibility necessary where projects are undertaken for public purposes.

“Private property is essential to a free society, and it is unacceptable for the government to take your land simply because it thinks it has a better use for it,” said Obenshain. “Traditionally, eminent domain has been limited to truly public purposes, but recent abuses necessitated a tighter definition.”

Opponents of the Amendment sought to amend the ballot referendum bill to prevent ratification of the Amendment by the voters this year, a tactic designed to quietly kill the measure. This motion failing, a subsequent effort was made to recommit the lost profits and access bill, SB 437, to the Senate Finance Committee, which will not meet again in time for further floor action prior to crossover – another transparent attempt to sideline the Amendment. “Virginians weren’t going to stand for the same old underhanded tactics this time around,” said Obenshain. The motion failed, thanks in part to an outpouring of public support for an up-or-down vote on the Amendment.

The vote tally can be found here:

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).


SJ 3:
SJ 3 Vote Tally:
SB 240:

SB 437:
Mark’s website:
Mark’s Facebook profile:

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