Senate's Eminent Domain Study Committee to Convene Here Tuesday : The (Savannah GA) Business Report, 9/26/05

Georgia state Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) will chair the first Eminent Domain and Economic Development Senate Study Committee when it meets Tuesday for the first time in Savannah. The hearing begins at noon at the Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Martin Luther King Blvd.

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, will testify before the Study Committee. Earlier this year, she represented the homeowners when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that counties and municipalities could use eminent domain for economic development purposes in Kelo vs. New London.

Despite the ruling, the Supreme Court gave states leeway to enact their own laws governing this procedure.

Chapman is the author of Senate Bill 86, a measure passed by the Senate 40-10 last year that places new limits on the public purposes for which property condemnations could occur. The legislation prevents the exercise of eminent domain for transfers of condemned property to private developers, corporations, or other private entities to increase tax revenues or for economic development. The bill awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs.

In addition to Chapman, the committee is made up of Senate President Pro-Tem Eric Johnson of Savannah; Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams of Lyons; Sen. Bill Heath of Bremen; Sen. Kasim Reed of Atlanta; Sen. David Shafer of Duluth and Sen. Dan Weber of Dunwoody.

Chapman said the hearings will explore whether eminent domain problems are occurring in the state. The hearing will also offer residents an opportunity to give legislative input. "Whatever Georgians need to protect them from this outrageous Supreme Court decision, that is what we plan to do," Chapman said in a press statement.

Future meetings of the Study Committee on Eminent Domain are being planned for Augusta, Columbus, and Atlanta before the start of the January 2006 session

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