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Virginia House, Senate Each Pass Eminent Domain Bills

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Proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution to clarify when governments can use the power of eminent domain have passed each house of the General Assembly. 

But companion legislation has also advanced that would redefine the "just compensation" that's given to property owners in those cases of government taking private property.

The constitutional amendment makes clear that land taken for public use cannot be for private gain, and payments to owners must be for its true value, lost profits, and lost access to nearby property. Two House and Senate bills define those terms. 

Some lawmakers were concerned that these conditions could result in fiscal impacts of millions of dollars. But bill sponsor State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R said that's only fair when you consider schools, roads, and other projects.

"Why on earth should that property owner alone bear the burden of the losses occasioned for the benefit of the community in general?" Obenshain said Tuesday.

But State Sen. Chap Peterson (D), although he supported the bill, was concerned it might not be fair to small business owners who don't report profits on their tax forms.

"This thing needs some work, because right now it is screwed down so tight that the small businesses I represent in Fairfax County, they're never going to recover," he said. 

All of the measures must still be approved in their opposite chambers to pass. If the constitutional amendment passes, voters will have the final say in November.

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