Medina and her fellow tea partyers oppose TransCanada’s use of eminent domain to claim private land for pipeline use, and they say Texas laws don’t protect landowners and city councils in the event of a spill.
Eminent domain has been used for years by government agencies and private companies to build roads and pipelines, as well as parks and environmental protection areas. But a recent Texas Supreme Court decision suggested that landowners may have the legal grounds to challenge companies that use eminent domain.
A move that could backfire, Virginia votes 35-5 to restrict local governments’ ability to develop its land. This top down, legislative act has the strong support of the GOP, the Tea Party, and the Family Foundation, among others.
The issue is being framed to prevent abuse from local governments, who, they say, have been using their Constitutional right to take land from private citizens to benefit private companies. For example,
"Abuses" such as the above are extremely rare, and are usually a result of a city’s publicly voted-on master or redevelopment plans. Usually eminent domain is innocuous business - widening a road, building a school, making a park, protecting riverbanks, etc. But condemning blighted, dangerous, or unused property usually catches the headlines - pitting an old lady vs a big corporation and the big, bad scary government.
People do not have full “rights” to their property. They cannot do what they want with it, and have to ask government for permission to do just about anything. It’s why you don’t find restaurants in people’s basements, strip clubs next door, or gas stations in anyone’s backyard. Want to add an additional room to your home? Restricted. Want to turn your home to a 7-11? Nope, can’t do it. Want to mine that vein of coal under your front lawn? You don’t own it. In most cases, you can’t even dig a hole without doing some type of survey work. (for a stronger, law oriented defense, see here.)
Still, property rights advocates are all over this move in Virginia as if it’s some type of major win. It’s not. I think it will cost local governments millions in future litigation, and cost the state thousands of jobs from companies moving elsewhere…
Virginia Senate Moves Forward on Eminent Domain Reform
Friday, February 25, 2011 3:37 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek
This week, the Virginia Senate came one step closer to enacting true reform that would end eminent domain abuse in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In a 35-5 vote, the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would redefine and limit the public uses for which private property may be confiscated by the government. Eminent domain is still allowed under this legislation for traditional public uses, such as schools and transportation projects for the state of Virginia, but the state would be required to fully compensate the owner. Eminent domain for the purpose of private economic development would be prohibited under the amendment.
In a Richmond Times Dispatch op-ed, A. Barton Hinkle made the case for why reform is needed in Virginia by offering a few cases of abuse that involved:
•Roanoke seizing a building that belonged to the owners of a mom-and-pop flooring company so it could turn the property over to Carilion, a billion-dollar health-care corporation.
•Norfolk trying to seize the property of Central Radio so it could hand the land over to Old Dominion University.
•VDOT trying to cheat a small day-care owner out of just compensation — and spending more on lawyers to fight the case than it would have shelled out by paying her original asking price.
The 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision by the Supreme Court provided local governments the unrestricted opportunity to take homes and small businesses for private development. Following this court decision, legislation in both Congress and state capitals around the country has been debated on what the proper role of government is with regard to the use of eminent domain.
This is just the beginning of the process to enact reform in Virginia. For an amendment to be added to the constitution, the amendment must pass the General Assembly twice with an election in between and then go to a vote of the people through the referendum process.