Local Commentary

Senator Saslaw’s Richmond Report


On November 6, we will elect the President, our federal Senator and Congressmen. Absentee voting has begun at a brisk pace throughout the region. It is common knowledge that Virginia may well decide the outcome of the national election. In the Commonwealth, newly enacted voter identification laws require you to bring proof that you are a registered voter.

Also on the ballot will be two questions concerning amendments to Virginia’s constitution. Article I Section 11 addresses the issue of eminent domain. Currently our state constitution prohibits the taking or damaging of private property for public use without just compensation. If there is a dispute over the sale of the property, it may be acquired through eminent domain with the courts deciding just compensation. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court case (Kelo v. City of New London, 2005) the VA General Assembly enacted § 1-219.1 into Code. This amendment identifies private property as a “fundamental right;” taking or damaging of private property must be for “public use;” no more property may be taken or damaged than is “necessary…” Eminent domain can be exercised for a public service company, public service corporation or railroad. Further, just compensation will be expanded and defined to include “no less than the value of the property taken, lost profits and lost access and damages … caused by the taking.” The General Assembly will be tasked with defining lost profits and lost access should the voters approve the amendment.

Virginia is considered a part-time legislature. The General Assembly convenes the second Wednesday in January. In even numbered years, the Session is to last no longer than 60 days. The short session (45 days) occurs in the odd numbered years. A reconvene session to consider the Governor’s amendments to passed legislation, is to occur on the sixth Wednesday after the regular session concludes. The second question, if approved will allow the reconvene session to occur no later than the seventh Wednesday if both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates agree. The purpose of this change is to allow for religious holidays that may fall on the sixth Wednesday.

The basis of this report comes from the State Board of Elections pamphlet on the proposed constitutional amendments. You may view the complete explanations at their website: www. sbe.virginia.gov.

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As the Senate Democratic Leader, I have the privilege to appoint a page for the upcoming session in Richmond. Our page program is nationally recognized for excellence. We are in the process of looking for eligible candidates in the 35th Senate District who wish to be considered. Please see my website (dicksaslaw.com) for details – it is important to note that students must be 13 years old, be in high academic standing, and have at least one registered voting parent in the 35th Senate District. Interested qualified applicants are asked to send me an essay stating their reason(s) for wanting to be a page by November 1. They will also be interviewed and one will be selected no later than November 13. 

 Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be e-mailed at district35@senate.virginia.gov