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Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 28 Sep 2006 03:04 pm

“Hallowed Ground” Threat to Property Rights in 4 States

ED: This posting first appeared on NoVaPolitics.

(***Scroll down to an important Loudoun County meeting on the “Hallowed Ground” scheme next Tuesday.)

The “culture of governmentalism” can beguile even long-time Republican House and Senate incumbents, and certainly their unwary staffs.

Such appears to be the case with H.R. 5195, “Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act of 2006,” whose principal House sponsor is Frank Wolf of Virginia, and its Senate counterpart, S.2645, sponsored by George Allen.

In prepared testimony this morning before a House of Representatives panel, Peyton Knight of the National Center for Public Policy Research declares:

“Worse than run-of-the-mill pork, which wastes federal tax dollars, this legislation would actually purchase preservationist special interest groups, many of which have histories of anti-property rights activism, and encourage them to urge State and local lawmakers to restrict land use, modify zoning and even acquire private property or interests in private property.” [Emphasis added.]

Knight, the director of environmental and regulatory affairs at the National Center, explains:

“Specifically, H.R. 5195 would create a 175-mile long federal corridor, the boundaries of which encompass portions of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It would assign a ‘management entity’ consisting of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) Partnership (an umbrella group of preservation activists and lobbyists who stand to directly benefit from the bill’s passage) and the Interior Department to oversee development and land use in the area.”

Your correspondent takes second place to no one in underscoring the importance of keeping a Republican majority in the U.S. Congress. But reckless, sometimes insolent incumbency, and trying to be all things to all voters jeopardize all conservatives across America. These voices are outraged by the appearance of yet more pork. There is also a bi-partisan revolt, precipitated by the Kelo decision, against covert as well as overt abuse of eminent domain, and regulatory takings in general. Mindlessly following the “old Congressional ways” is a path to putting Nancy Pelosi second in line in presidential succession, and John Conyers as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Knight cites a recent Bloomberg column illustrating the problems of fuzzing the reach of proposed legislation for maximum political gain:

“Bloomberg News columnist Andrew Ferguson best described this dubious defense of the Hallowed Ground Heritage Area earlier this month. In this particular instance, Mr. Ferguson is describing Senator George Allen’s defense of the Hallowed Ground initiative: ‘Allen’s response has been typical of a politician who unexpectedly finds himself bucking his base. He wants to reassure both sides simultaneously -preservationists on the one hand and property-rights advocates on the other – and the only way to do this is to brag that the bill is a critically-important measure that will have almost no practical effect.'”

Ferguson gets the good senator’s quandary right.

In related action yesterday, Representative Wolf was one of 23 Republicans voting against a property-rights protection measure, H. R. 4772. In the words of the National Federation of Independent Business:

“NFIB is also working on various bills in Congress that reaffirm the importance of property owners and small businesses, including H.R. 4772, the Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 2006. This legislation will allow private property owners and small businesses access to federal courts when bringing up a property rights claim that is protected by the Constitution. Currently, property owners and small businesses do not have the option to take a Fifth Amendment Takings Clause claim directly to federal court. Instead, they are faced with exhausting all possible state court remedies because of a 1985 Supreme Court ruling, even though all other civil rights plaintiffs can take their claims directly to federal court.”

The Congress adjourns tomorrow or so until the lame-duck session beginning on November 13, so no action on these “Hallowed Ground” measures is likely this week. But that short session between November 13 and Thanksgiving, November 23 can be a season for mischief when below-the-radar threats slide into law.

***Virginians concerned about the “Hallowed Ground” bills can hear expert Peyton Knight at NovaTownhall.com, next Tuesday, October 3, 2006, from 7:00-8:30 pm at the Leesburg Executive Airport, 1001 Sycolin Road South East, in Leesburg. Please go to http://www.novatownhall.com for more information.

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