Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 4, 2012

Virginia legislators consider eminent domain constitutional amendment

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Agriculture, Virginia’s number one industry, moved from a back burner to the front this week as the Virginia General Assembly considers a constitutional amendment related to eminent domain.

“It is not a simple matter to pass a constitutional amendment,” Senator Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell, said. “It takes two sessions that are divided by an election. We passed SJ3 last year, and we need to pass it again this session if it is to be placed on the ballot for people to decide on it in the next election.

“The bill has support from the state Agribusiness Council and the Farm Bureau, and it appeared to have support in the General Assembly, but just today (Friday) we learned there is a movement to refer it to the Senate Finance Committee,” Puckett said. “A lot of folks think it will die in committee.”

State Senator Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, is patron of the bill on the Senate side while Delegate Robert B. Bell, R-Augusta, carried the same bill (HJ3) in the House. “The proposed amendment provides that private property can be taken or damaged only for a public use, only with just compensation to the owner, and only so much taken as is necessary for the public use,” according to the abstract of the bill.

The Senate held second reading on SJ3 on Friday, but passed on it for the day. “There will probably be a motion on the floor on Monday,” Puckett said. “I see this constitutional amendment as a way to protect farm land and to ensure that, if their land is taken due to eminent domain that they get a fair settlement for their property.”

Although unrelated, Puckett was recognized as a “Distinguished Friend of Virginia Agribusiness,” on Jan. 12, during the Virginia Agribusiness Council’s annual Legislative Appreciation Banquet at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond, Va. Puckett was recognized for his “steadfast commitment” to keeping the state’s agriculture business strong.

“As his many friends and colleagues have noted, (Puckett) is more than just a committed and trusted public servant, he is also a man of strong faith who is devoted to his God, his family and his community,” Donna Pugh Johnson, president of the Agribusiness Council said.

“It was quite an honor for me,” Puckett said. “I always try to go to this event every year.” Puckett said he did not know he was going to receive the honor, but his wife, Jeanette, knew, although she had to return home to Lebanon, Va., before the dinner. “She called to make sure I was going, though,” Puckett said.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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