State lawmakers pursue eminent domain limits
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Posted on Fri, Aug. 05, 2005
State lawmakers to pursue eminent domain limits
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JACKSON - Two lawmakers are preparing proposals for the 2006 legislative session that would bar cities from using eminent domain to take private land to make way for private developments such as hotels or convention centers.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a city could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use.
The justices said states are free to pass additional protections if they see fit.
Cities historically have used the power of eminent domain for urban renewal projects.
At least eight states - Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington - forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is to eliminate blight. Other states either expressly allow private property to be taken for private economic purposes or have not spoken clearly to the question.
Two states, Delaware and Alabama, have enacted restrictions since the court's decision. On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley signed into law a bill allowing cities to condemn land only in blighted areas.
State Rep. Ed Blackmon Jr., D-Canton, was joined by Rep. Jamie Franks, D-Mooreville, on Thursday to announce plans for the legislation, said he opposed the exception in the Alabama law.
"Anytime you start doing exceptions, it's a loophole for government trying to run over individuals," Blackmon said.
Blackmon, chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, and Franks said their bill would prohibit the use of eminent domain for commercial and industrial projects. There would be a companion constitutional amendment proposed to put before voters.
"Mississippians have certain basic property rights," said Franks. "It should be dealt with in a fashion of free enterprise."
Under the proposal, cities and towns would still be able to condemn land for projects such as streets, utilities, parks and public buildings.
Senate Judiciary A Chairman Charlie Ross, R-Brandon, told the newspaper he supports limiting cities' condemnation abilities.
"It think it's un-American," Ross said of the federal court decision. "It puts us all at risk."
Amendments to limit the use of eminent domain during the debate over the Nissan plant lost steam in committee meetings, he said.
"We're going to look closely and make sure we do it right," Ross said of the proposed House legislation.