Speaker creates committee to develop eminent domain guidelines for state: Palm Beach (FL) Post, 6/25/05

By Alan Gomez

Expressing concerns about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that broadened governments' rights to use eminent domain proceedings to take private property, Florida House Speaker Allan Bense on Friday created a committee to develop guidelines about when and where the proceedings can be used in the state.

The action follows Bense's vote two months ago in support of a state subsidy for a new Florida Marlins stadium, a project that may displace about 100 Miami residents through eminent domain proceedings. The project ultimately did not receive the state subsidy.

Bense also tapped Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, one of the strongest and most vocal supporters of the Marlins stadium, to head the committee. In a statement, Bense said he was "extremely concerned" by the court's 5-4 decision Thursday, which critics say weakens individuals' property rights at the expense of private projects that are intended for public use.

Bense, who has described himself as a libertarian in opposing government intrusion on personal lives, said Floridians should be wary of eminent domain proceedings used to benefit profit-driven private entities.

"Private property rights are a fundamental principle upon which our nation was founded, and government should only be allowed to deny a United States citizen those most basic rights under the most extraordinary circumstances," he said.

Bense's spokesman said Friday that his support of a $60 million subsidy for the Marlins stadium and his selection of Rubio as the committee's chair are not contrary to his concern about the Supreme Court opinion.

"There are distinct differences between the Marlins situation and the Connecticut case," Towson Fraser said.

In the Supreme Court case, seven Connecticut homeowners lost their bid to fight off an eminent domain proceeding that would raze their homes to construct private commercial development. In the case of the Marlins, the team, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami are all contributing money for a stadium that will be owned by the county, then leased to the baseball team.

A bid to also add a 30-year, $60 million state subsidy to complete the financing package passed the House — with yea votes from Bense and Rubio helping it along — before it died in the Senate.

But Miami officials have promised to revive the fight, and Rubio could lead it when he becomes speaker of the House in 17 months.

Fraser said he did not think Rubio's support of the Marlins' stadium and his appointment to head the eminent domain committee represent a conflict of interest.

Palm Beach Post: www.palmbeachpost.com