Election Day ballot includes decision on property rights - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Election Day ballot includes decision on property rights

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It's known as the fight over property rights. Tuesday, you'll be asked to vote on a proposal that could change the way governments can seize private land.

If the government believes your land would serve the public interest, it can buy it from you under the process known as eminent domain. Tuesday's vote could narrow the definition of what's considered public interest.

It will appear as question one. It would specify that governments could take land only for public projects, pay a fair price, and never take more land than necessary.

Delegate Rob Bell is a supporter.

"This is a fundamental right. A homeowner, a landowner, a property owner needs to be safe in their home," said Bell (R-58) in an interview with NBC29 of Charlottesville.

In Spotsylvania, for example, a woman felt unprotected when construction crews moved in for a mall expansion project and connector road. What happened there was legal, but it wasn't exactly a big hit with the public. So state lawmakers this year passed the idea of a constitutional amendment that would prohibit all but the most necessary public projects.

On the other hand, some lawmakers remain concerned about two little words in the proposed amendment. The words: "lost profits". The amendment would seem to guarantee big payouts for people who lose future money when their land is seized.

"What it's going to do is create a lot of opportunity for lawyers to use the court system to try to extract more money from the commonwealth," said Del. David Toscano (D-57) to NBC 29.

On election day, the choice becomes: Whether the government should be limited in its efforts to seize private land, or, if the amendment goes too far, potentially costing taxpayers more money down the road.

Earlier this year, lawmakers gave the amendment broad bipartisan support. The vote on Election Day will be the last step necessary before it could take effect or not.

Tuesday's ballot will feature one other constitutional amendment. If approved, it would allow lawmakers to delay the annual "veto session" by one week so it won't conflict with the Jewish holiday of Passover.

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