Legislature hears proposals to limit eminent domain
Associated Press Writer
A Senate committee heard three proposed restrictions on the government’s power to take property through eminent domain on Wednesday – measures that followed a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue.
Besides the Senate bills, introduced following voter approval of a far-reaching eminent domain plan in November, the Assembly is considering one bill and two constitutional amendments to limit the government’s ability to take property for private use and economic development.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, introduced SB85, which prevents state or local governments from taking non-blighted private property for the purpose of economic development.
Raggio described the bill as a response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision involving New London, Conn. In what’s known as the Kelo case, the court said that using eminent domain for private economic development was allowable under the U.S. Constitution, but that states could restrict it.
Raggio said he requested the bill a day after the court ruling, adding that Nevada should join more than 30 other states that have begun the process of drafting restrictions on use of eminent domain.
“I believe that Kelo is a dangerous precedent,” said Raggio. “It allows governmental entities to take any parcel of private property, without regard to the condition of the property, in order to clear the way for the development of shopping malls, office buildings, or more expensive residential units.”
The Assembly’s AJR3 proposes amending the state Constitution to incorporate changes similar to Raggio’s bill. That resolution, which more than 30 legislators have signed as co-sponsors, is a compromise between supporters and opponents of Question 2, passed by voters last year.
Question 2, called the People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land (PISTOL) by its supporters, goes farther than the other proposals now under discussion in the Legislature, mandating the highest possible payments for blighted land that can be taken through eminent domain.
The author of PISTOL, attorney Kermitt Waters, represents landowners in eminent domain cases. The initiative was one of several initiatives affecting property rights around the country bankrolled by Howie Rich, a New York real estate investor with ties to libertarian groups.
Raggio said he supports the compromise agreement, and stressed that his bill was a response to the Kelo decision, not to PISTOL.
If legislators approve a constitutional amendment on eminent domain, it will appear on the ballot as a competing proposal to PISTOL in 2008. Two consecutive voter approvals are required to change the constitution, so PISTOL would be up for final approval, while AJR3 would be just halfway through the process if it gets more votes than PISTOL.
Raggio’s bill would take effect this year if passed, and could be superseded by one of the proposed constitutional amendments.
After Raggio’s bill was discussed, Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, brought up SB16, a bill that would allow defendants in eminent domain cases to collect interest on any deposits they are required to give the court.