Eminent domain bill should pass: Cook County (MN) News-Herald, 1/26/06

Guest column: As I See It

By Patricia Anderson, Minnesota State Auditor

Last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local governments could use eminent domain to take land from one private owner and give it another, I wrote to newspapers calling on the legislature to take action to ensure the property rights of all Minnesotans.

Many, including myself, felt that the Supreme Court ruling simply gave too much power to local governments to take private property through the use of eminent domain.

We are pleased to see the legislature is taking steps to correct this problem. State Senator Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) and Representative Jeff Johnson (R-Plymouth) have come forward with legislation that would restrict local government’s power of eminent domain.

Johnson and Bakk feel that the term “public use” must be clarified and that Minnesota’s current eminent domain standards need to be tightened when it comes to taking properties.

Johnson and Bakk are doing the right thing, and I applaud their bi-partisan effort to protect the property rights of Minnesotans.

Most local government officials try to balance the desire for development with the need to protect private property rights.

But, in light of the court ruling, homeowners now feel a greater sense of uneasiness with this authority granted to local governments.

People should not have to live in fear that their property will be taken to benefit private development simply for the purpose of expanding the local tax base.

It should be noted that I continue to support Minnesota’s tradition of local control and believe that eminent domain has a legitimate role in government.

But it must only be used for projects in “the public good”, such as roads, sewers, and government buildings, as well as protecting the public from safety hazards and eliminating blight.

I therefore stand along side Rep. Johnson and Sen. Bakk in their effort to reform Minnesota’s eminent domain statues.

I am confident they will be able to rally their colleagues to pass this legislation, and that the Governor will sign it as soon as it gets to his desk.

Cook County News-Herald: www.grandmarais-mn.com