Legislators mull eminent domain: (Gallatin TN) News Examiner, 11/7/05

By Katrina Cornwell

State lawmakers will have no less than a dozen pieces of legislation to consider next year to limit the ways eminent domain can be used to take private property.

That news was encouraging to Sumner County property owners who are fighting federal approval of a 30-mile natural gas transmission pipeline.

Linda Roddy said the efforts of Sumner Trousdale Opposing Pipeline (STOP) have shed light on how eminent domain can be used for private gain.

“We’re not just fighting just for us. We’re fighting against eminent domain,” said Roddy, whose family owns land in the path of the proposed Midwestern Gas Transmission Company (MGT) pipeline.

“That’s every property owner’s right to have property. MGT is a big company and they think they’re just going to bully us around and it’s not going to happen. We’re tired of being run over by big companies,” she said.

Two members of the Sumner County delegation have filed pieces of legislation that will be introduced to the Tennessee General Assembly Jan. 10, 2006.

State Rep. Mike McDonald, D-Portland, has filed House Bill 2432 while State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, has filed Senate Bill 2419 and Senate Joint Resolution 501.

McDonald’s bill proposes to narrow the definition of a “public use” for which eminent domain can be used to take private property.

The bill also aims to prevent a governmental or other authorized entity to take property and transfer it to a private developer, corporation or other non-governmental entity.

“I feel strongly about the principal that it should be used only for the public good,” McDonald said. “The only examples I know to give are schools and roads that benefit the public at large.”

McDonald said governments should not be in the business of taking private property and giving it to a private entity.

“I just think that is contrary to what the founding fathers intended in the constitution,” he said. “People work hard to pay for their homes, their property, whatever it may be...We don’t need to let one entity profit by taking private property of another entity.”

Beavers’ bill also attempts to eliminate the power of government bodies to take private property and transfer it to another party for commercial use.

Her resolution specifies that eminent domain should only be used for public roads or streets, public transportation, railways, utilities, government-owned and used buildings and public facilities for the general use of government or its citizens.

State Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, said she supports measures to limit the scope of the eminent domain law.

“There are a great number of bills that were filed because of Sumner County,” Black said. “I will be a big supporter of keeping private business from coming in and taking people’s property for the sake of private development.”

Linda Webster who owns a 249-acre farm in Bethpage, is glad state lawmakers are focusing on eminent domain.

“We’re all for it,” said Webster, who is a member of STOP. “The big bad wolf will just eat you up.”

News Examiner: www.gallatinnewsexaminer.com