8/09/2005

Eminent Domain Bill Proposal: WLBT-TV3 (Jackson MS), 8/5/05

By David Kenney

It's an issue that affects any home or land owner. Should the government be allowed to take property, for private development?

In June, the U.S. Supreme court ruled private property could be taken by governments for economic development. Now some lawmakers in Mississippi say they disagree, and are planning to make changes to amend the high court ruling.

House members Ed Blackmon and Jamie Franks held a press conference announcing their proposal of a bill, that goes against the supreme court ruling.

Franks says, "We do not believe in a large corporation like Walmart should be able to take our homes that we have worked hard for all our lives or take farms, our businesses our churches houses, and turn them over to these large giant corporations."

Eminent domain was thrust upon many Madison county landowners in 1999, when state developers started buying up space for the Nissan plant.

One land owner, Bettye Cain sold her home and some of her land, but not by choice.

When asked if she would have sold her house if she didn't have to, Cain said, "No, not if I had wanted to. I like my house; some of my children were born in it."

Bettye says, eminent domain forced her into selling, knowing she had to leave, she fought for the best price she could get

Cain says, "They said if they come in and get it, I wouldn't get as much as if I sold it. I didn't want them just coming in and taking it."

Cain was also a member of Harvey Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, where she voted to stay, but the majority of the congregation voted to sell.

Even though the building was only four years old at the time, Nissan said the church had to go to make room for the plant, but it's still there, now as the Nissan fitness center.

Lawmakers will have to determine whether to include an amendment to allow cities to use eminent domain to take over dilapidated properties for improvements like they have in Alabama and Delaware.

Representative Ed Blackmon says, "I don't want to displace anyone because their economic state in life and allow these people to do what they can do in their power to help themselves on their own property."

But for the average landowner in Mississippi, if passed, the law would give greater bargaining power, when big business tries to move in.

Betty Cain says, "I went through something I wouldn't want anyone to go through. What I went through, it was real rough."

The passing of the eminent domain restriction bill would also require an approval of a constitutional amendment, by Mississippi voters.


WLBT: www.wlbt.com