March 9, 2006

Two Eminent Domain Bills to be Heard Tomorrow

Carroll Andrew Morse

The House Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow on Representative Charlene Lima’s (D-Cranston) eminent domain reform bill (House bill 6739). Representative Matthew McHugh’s (D-Charlestown/New Shoreham/South Kingstown/Westerly) reform bill (House bill 6725) is scheduled to be considered at the same meeting.

H6739 is one of the weaker eminent domain reform proposals that has been introduced this session. Here is the first paragraph of the bill…

No taking of private property for public use under the provisions of this chapter shall in any instance result in ownership of that property in any private entity or individual not related to this state or a municipality or any subdivision therein in an amount greater than twenty percent (20%) of non-state ownership.
The “not related to this state” hedge creates a gaping loophole. The legislature could, for instance, invent some process by which it certifies a developer as “related to the state” for the purposes of eminent domain. Then, suddenly, the provisions of this bill would not apply.

The second paragraph of H6739 suggests that this is not only a possibility, but is the intent of the bill…

It is the express intent of this section that the state or municipality shall not use powers over acquisition of land to benefit a private party or entity to the detriment of another private party or entity unless the general assembly expressly provides otherwise.
The final clause quite clearly assumes that the legislature has reserved to itself the power to mandate, in some fashion, transfers of property from one private owner to another via eminent domain.

Strike the "not related to this state" clause from the first paragraph and the entire second paragraph and you might get a decent bill out of H6739. Otherwise, there are 3 bills before the legislature that are better options, as is Representative McHugh’s bill, if applied to the state level as well as the local level.

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Steve Laffey owns this issue. He was early on it, as he has been on most key issues such as renewable energy, lower cost prescription drugs, earmark reduction, corporate welfare, and school choice. This man shows courage and pluck. His style is different yet this country needs results and he knows how to get them. I trust him. He is not like the career politicians. He is good with foreign languages, such as German and deciphering Chafee-speak. Laffey rocks! Angus Young was spot on with his commentary.

Posted by: Lizzie Karl at March 10, 2006 1:27 AM