GOP candidates speak out on eminent domain: Augusta Free Press (Waynesboro VA), 7/13/05

Eye on Virginia

By Chris Graham

Republicans Jerry Kilgore, Bill Bolling and Bob McDonnell took the eminent-domain ball and ran with it on Tuesday, announcing their plan for revisions to state law to protect private-property owners in Virginia from the fear that government is going to take their land and homes from them to clear the way for lucrative private development.

"The Constitution of Virginia is very clear that the General Assembly is given the authority to define what 'public use' means. We've done it, but we haven't done it in a way that clearly protects property rights from actions with the purpose of economic development or revenue enhancement," said McDonnell, the GOP attorney-general nominee.

"This right to private property is so fundamental to our liberties that we believe it deserves constitutional protection in order to give certainty to private-property owners that their land is going to be taken for essentially private uses," McDonnell told reporters on a conference call.

Lieutenant-governor nominee Bolling and gubernatorial nominee Kilgore pledged with McDonnell to support revisions to the state code that would clearly state that tax-revenue enhancements and economic development are not legitimate purposes to allow government action to take private property through eminent domain.

The ticket also expressed its desire to see enacted a constitutional amendment proclaiming that the taking of land for public use "shall not include the taking of private property for the primary purpose of economic development or tax-revenue enhancement."

The strong words from the trio are the latest from politicians from across the Old Dominion in the wake of a controversial Supreme Court decision last month that extends the ability of local-government entities to use eminent domain to condemn properties for the purpose of clearing the way for private, for-profit development projects.

"There really was a sense of shock, not only in Washington, but across the country, because it is such a far-reaching decision that really threatens the principle of private-property rights and private ownership," Bolling said.

"If this decision is allowed to stand, it really does take us down the track of social engineering and land-use planning that I think is very dangerous for our country and our Commonwealth, because it would threaten these foundational principles and private-property rights," Bolling said.

"We must protect private-property owners from unnecessary and unwarranted intrusions on property rights. Taking private property merely to increase the tax revenue of government is not an appropriate use of the eminent-domain power," Kilgore said.

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