Six years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its highly controversial Kelo v. City of New London decision, efforts to reign in the power of eminent domain continue to roll across the nation.

In February, a Senate panel in Virginia narrowly approved a proposal to amend the state Constitution to redefine what is considered public use of private property. The measure, sponsored by Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-Portsmouth) would also compensate home and business owners at a level near market value for the loss of their property through eminent domain.

Joannou told the Virginia Statehouse News (Feb. 15) that his bill would protect the rights of private property owners by creating a system of compensation for the loss of the property and from any damage to adjacent property. The bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, has already passed the House. Virginia is one of many jurisdictions that enacted eminent domain reform in the wake of the Kelo decision. But Virginia’s 2007 reform was considered too weak by many property-rights advocates, prompting Joannou to introduce his legislation.

In its 2005 Kelo ruling, the Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 margin, held that officials in New London, Conn. were within their rights when they used eminent domain to condemn residential property so that a developer could use the land for commercial purposes that would create jobs and raise tax revenues. In other words, the city was allowed to push home owners off their property so that another private entity could make what was said to be better economic use of the land. In a cruel twist of fate, the developer, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, never obtained the funding for the project, and the land remains vacant to this day.

Joannou’s bill enjoys the support of farmers. “Having that land is very important, and taking it to give to another private entity is something that our folks feel very strongly about and believe it should be in the [state] Constitution,” Trey Davis, a lobbyist for the Virginia Farm Bureau, told the Virginia Statehouse News.

The bill is expected to be approved by the full Senate later this year. Under Virginia law, it would then have to be reintroduced in both houses next year and, if approved, would then be put on the ballot so that voters can decide whether it should be amended to the Virginia Constitution.

Author

  • Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

    Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments. Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Busines Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh. He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.