There are very few jurisdictions that have State leadership supporting limitations on eminent domain. Politicians all too often love the power.
However, the Virginia leadership understands the need for property rights protection as few have up to now.
Bills approved by the General Assembly this year seek to redefine when, and under what circumstances, private land can be taken for public use, and requires "just compensation" to landowners whose property is condemned.
Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday ceremonially signed those measures - they set the framework for the November referendum - as other elected officials who have led the charge to reform eminent domain law looked on.
The proposed constitutional amendment "sets clear boundaries on the ability of government to seize property," McDonnell said.
And it endeavors to make financially whole property owners who face lost profits or other assets when made to turn over their land, he added.
"Just compensation means exactly that," McDonnell explained. "Not close compensation, or in the ballpark compensation."
The modern eminent domain touchstone is a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed a Connecticut city's ability to transfer land from one private owner to another.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that a contemplated redevelopment project, and the jobs and tax revenue it was to generate, properly qualified as a public use.
However, the court acknowledged states' right to impose tougher condemnation rules.
So Virginia legislators moved to tighten state laws to prevent such scenarios here, and in 2007 the General Assembly narrowed the eminent domain statute.
As a state senator five years ago, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli carried one of the bills drawn to inhibit government's ability to chip away at individual liberty.
"You can't have a free society without protection of property rights," Cuccinelli said during Monday's bill signing.