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Virginia amends constitution to restrict eminent domain

Virginia voters passed Question 1 [official voter pamphlet, PDF] on Tuesday by 76 percent [Virginia Board of Elections results], amending the state Constitution [materials] to include prohibitions on the State utilizing eminent domain [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to seize private property. Question 1 amends Article 1, Section 11 [text] of the state Constitution to "require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development." It also amended the Constitution to require the government to define just compensation and prohibit the taking of more property than is necessary.

Eminent domain has become a more contentious issue since the issuance of Kelo v. New London [opinion] by the US Supreme Court in 2005. Kelo held that "promoting economic development" was an acceptable "public use" taking under the Fifth Amendment [text]. Since then, there have been various state and Federal attempts to limit eminent domain. In February, the US House of Representatives approved a bill [JURIST report] to prevent states from seizing private property for the purpose of economic development and create a private cause of action for property owners. Mississippi passed an initiative [JURIST report] similar to Virginia's in 2011.

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