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Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The opponents of last November’s property rights amendment to the Virginia Constitution assured us that we could trust our state lawmakers to stand strong for reforms they enacted in 2007 preventing localities from condemning land for economic development. An elected official would be crazy to flip-flop and vote to allow homes, farms or small businesses once again to be condemned and then sold to private developers who promised “bigger and better” uses for the property.
You can count on the promise of the elected officials in Richmond, they said, so a constitutional amendment is an unnecessary overreaction to an imaginary problem.
Those of us who pushed for the amendment warned that a mere law could be weakened, even repealed, by a simple majority vote in the assembly. We argued that the only safe course was to build a moat around private property with a constitutional amendment, a moat that could never be breached.
What happened recently in Alabama proves how wise Virginians were to adopt the amendment last fall with a 74 percent majority. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a law allowing Alabama municipalities once again to seize private property for the purpose of private development, reversing strong post-Kelo protections that Alabamans had fought so hard for. They had no moat.
If not for the leadership (sometimes lonely) by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and his warnings that the existing protections weren’t enough, the amendment might never have been secured. Love him or not, Cuccinelli has been right about the threats to private property.
On this issue, Cuccinelli is no Johnny-come-lately positioning himself for this year’s gubernatorial campaign. As a member of the state Senate, he authored the 2007 Eminent Domain Reform Act, which ultimately became law. He wasn’t content with that. He saw it only as a first step on a path to a constitutional amendment. He pushed, pushed and pushed some more to write one and to get it through hostile territory in the legislature for two years in a row. Then, he crisscrossed Virginia to sell it.
In light of Alabama’s recent reversal, we see now how right Cuccinelli was. Whether it’s taking meaningful action against child predators and human trafficking, leading the way on mental health issues or protecting individual liberties like property rights, Cuccinelli has always been more than just talk. He delivers results.
Over the next several months, Virginians will endure a flood of negative ads as the governor’s race heats up. Virginians, as they demonstrated last fall in adopting the property rights amendment, know how to filter out the noise and see what matters. Virginians know what they’re getting with Cuccinelli.
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