7/25/2005

House GOP urges Congress to limit eminent domain: The Kentucky Post, 7/23/05

By Feoshia Henderson

Kentucky's House Republicans are backing a resolution urging Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the government's authority to take citizens' property for private economic development.

Louisville Rep. Scott Brinkman has pre-filed the resolution for the 2006 General Assembly session. The chamber's entire 43-member Republican delegation, including six Northern Kentuckians, has signed onto it.

The resolution, which if passed would not effect Kentucky law, is in response to the recent 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that government could seize property for private development if it would result in higher tax revenues for the government.

"It goes beyond anything we have ever seen," Brinkman said. "What the court has said is you can take private property for economic development in the private sector if you can show you'll get more of a tax base and more revenue for local government."

Brinkman said he would work the Democratic majority in the House to help ensure passage of the measure.

"I think the Supreme Court decision was a huge mistake," said state Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, who supports the House measure. "Public use should be only for the public itself, not for another private entity."

The resolution asks Congress to pass an amendment "prohibiting the use of eminent domain for private economic development purposes."

Historically eminent domain powers have been used for the public good for projects such as roads, railroads or utilities. Supporters of the Supreme Court ruling say the expanded authority gives governments a valuable tool in developing run down areas.

But Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, said the court overstepped its bounds and the resolution was a way for the legislature to affect change.

"It a joint resolution and we're asking (Congress) to act on behalf of the citizens of the United States," she said.

Lawmakers in two states, Minnesota and Texas, are working on legislation to limit eminent domain authority.

Kentucky is one of at least eights states that already curb that power. In the commonwealth property can be seized for public projects, or for private projects only if an area is declared blighted.

That's what happened in Newport, where the city has struck a deal with Montgomery developer Bear Creek Capital to develop a retail-office project on 55 acres between Memorial Parkway and Carothers Road, just west of Interstate 471.

The city declared the property blighted in 2002 and subject to private development under terms of eminent domain.

The project necessitated the razing of 96 houses, two churches and one business.


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