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Virginia Republicans, who constantly talk a good game on property rights, will have the opportunity to make good on their rhetoric tomorrow. That’s when the Senate Agriculture Committee will vote on HB-1430 – “The Boneta Bill.” The legislation sponsored by Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, would help to insulate farmers from intrusive government actions. The bill is named for Martha Boneta, a Fauquier County farmer, who has been on the receiving end of some very bizarre anti-business directives.
County officials have filed a complaint against Boneta based on zoning violation allegations that amount to what Adam Cassandra, chairman of the Fauquier County Young Republicans, aptly describes as “unnecessary government interferences in the marketplace.”
Boneta does have a business license for her farm store, which is located in Paris, Virginia. But this has not deterred the county government from interfering with Boneta’s very modest economic transactions. Because she has sold organic tea and wool products obtained from rescued animals, Boneta has been threatened with thousands of dollars in fines. The other part of the dispute cited in the zoning complaint concerns “an event” Boneta held on her farm. That event would be a birthday party for the 10-year old daughter of a family friend. Apparently, Boneta needed some sort of permit.
Lingamfelter’s bill would amend the existing Virginia Farm Act with additional language aimed at preventing government officials from intruding upon property rights.
Unfortunately, Boneta has been forced to close the store located on her property until the case is resolved. This is kind of mistreatment that calls out for a firm response. During a press conference held at the State Capitol building in Richmond this past January, Boneta noted that the day to day challenges of running a farm are such that government officials should be working to remove obstacles that undermine small business. Right now that’s not happening. That can change if the Boneta Bill becomes law.