Two proposed amendments to Constitution of Virginia on Nov. 6 ballot

Election Day 2012 is fast approaching, and while voters are familiarizing themselves with what each candidate stands for, they might also familiarize with the two questions that are asked on this year’s ballot.

Voters will say yes or no to two proposed amendments to the Constitution of Virginia on November 6

“There are two proposed amendments to the Constitution of Virginia on the ballot voters will be casting on November 6,” says Greene County Registrar Sandra Shifflett.

Question 1 on the November 6 ballot is about eminent domain – the power of the state to take private property for public use.

According to the Virginia State Board of Elections (http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/), the current Constitution prohibits the taking or damaging of private property for public uses without just compensation. If a private property owner and the entity acquiring property for a public use cannot agree on the sale of the property, the property may be taken by eminent domain and the amount of just compensation is decided in a court proceeding.

In 2007, in the wake of a 2005 United States Supreme Court decision upholding the taking of private property and its transfer to a private business for economic development purposes, the Virginia General Assembly set limits on the use of eminent domain powers. It enacted legislation stating that no more private property may be taken than is necessary for the stated public use, that the public interest for the taking must outweigh any private gain, and that private property cannot be taken for certain primary purposes such as increasing the tax base, revenues, or employment.

The amendment, sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell, would require that eminent domain only be exercised when the property taken or damaged is for public use, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance. It specifies that it cannot be taken when the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue or economic development.

The amendment would also require a definition of “just compensation” for taking or damaging the property, and prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than necessary for public use.

To view the final copy of this proposed amendment, visit http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/Files/Cast%20Your%20Ballot/Candidate%20List/201211ConstitutionalAmendmentBillofRights.pdf.

Question 2 on the November 6 ballot relates to the General Assembly’s “veto” sessions.

According to information on the Virginia State Board of Elections Web site, after the end of every legislative session, the General Assembly is required by the Constitution to reconvene in a “veto” session. The only bills that the General Assembly can consider in a veto session are bills that it had passed during the legislative session and that the Governor has sent back to it with his vetoes or suggested amendments. The veto session usually lasts for only one day and cannot last more than ten days.

The Constitution now requires that the veto session must begin on the sixth Wednesday following the end of each session.

The proposed amendment would allow the General Assembly to delay the start of the veto session for up to one week. The amendment would allow the General Assembly to avoid the possible scheduling of the veto session on a religious holiday such as Passover. The proposed amendment does not change the present limits on the business that can be considered in a veto session or on the length of the veto session.

To view the final copy of this proposed amendment, visit http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/Files/Cast%20Your%20Ballot/Candidate%20List/201211ConstitutionalAmendmentLegislativeSessions.pdf

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