Constitutional Questions? Vote 'Yes' On The First, And 'No' On The Second

Published 3:32 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Though some rather stark political lines have been drawn, and are now being underlined, between the candidates, there are two votes, at least, that offer the likelihood of widespread agreement-the two state constitutional questions for Virginia voters on the November 6 ballot.

This one seems to be a no-brainer:

“Shall…the Constitution of Virginia be amended 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; to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for public use?”

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Short answer?


Long answer?

Heck yeah.

And this one seems to be in the who cares category:

Shall the section of the Constitution of Virginia “concerning legislative sessions be amended to allow the General Assembly to delay by no 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?”

Really, who cares?

There are, however, some additional points to make.

First, constitutional question number one. Yes, by all means we should amend the Virginia Constitution to prevent private property from being taken for private development and private financial gain. Taking your home or my home for that reason would be misuse and abuse of why we established an eminent domain law that must adhere to the principle of acquiring property only for public use.

Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2005, in a case from Connecticut, that private property could be taken via eminent domain for a private business under the mantle of economic development. But the court also said that states could act to restrict the use of eminent domain and this constitutional question seeks, wisely, to do just that.

By voting Yes, we ensure that the General Assembly cannot create a law that forces us out of our homes so that someone can use our property to open a fast-food restaurant. By voting Yes we ensure that only a future constitutional amendment, approved by the people, can undo what we should do on November 6.

Amending the Constitution takes time and involves the people, rather than a quick legislative vote under the radar.

Voting Yes on question one puts a solid lock in place to protect our private property.

We should do so. <br />
And keep our own keys to ourselves.

What about constitutional question number two?

Because it seems only intent and intended to impact scheduling of the annual, usually one-day, veto session, it is easy to regard this as an “inside baseball” kind of thing, important only to legislators, and then probably to not very many of them. What public impact could there be on the rest of us who usually ignore the veto session?

Probably very little impact at all.


Politicians being politicians, and political parties being political parties, and because one political party could control the General Assembly while the other party controls the governor's mansion and, therefore, gubernatorial power, there is a way the scheduling latitude in the proposed amendment could be used, or attempted, for partisan political purposes.

For that reason, I am going to vote No to this second, and seemingly innocuous, constitutional question on November's ballot.

The veto session could be delayed by a week to give one party extra time to pull a fast one on the other party and/or the governor, extra time to twist arms for votes or seek to focus public opinion and pressure.

Not likely, no.

But, because politicians and their partisan party egos and power plays are involved, just possible.

Let's not open that cookie jar even just a crack.