Gov. Sanford, lawmakers announce eminent domain bills: WIStv10 (Columbia SC), 1/24/06

Gov. Mark Sanford joined with lawmakers in the House and Senate on Tuesday to announce legislation designed to limit government’s ability to seize private property.

Three bills have been introduced in the S.C. Senate, with companion bills to be introduced this week in the House, that are aimed at protecting private property rights by limiting governments' eminent domain powers.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Sanford said the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo vs. City of New London, Connecticut, has shown a need for further eminent domain protections in South Carolina and that he will work with leaders in the General Assembly to promote that legislation in the coming year.

"A fundamental part of quality of life is the notion of ownership of one's property, and that's what these bills are ultimately all about," Gov. Sanford said. "The Kelo decision means we have to act now to protect property that people have invested money, work and time into over the course of many years. Property ownership is one of our most fundamental rights, and I'll work with the House and Senate in the coming session to make sure that right is secure in South Carolina."

Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) says, "We need to strengthen the definition of public use and reassert that in South Carolina, you can't take private property and give it to another entity. If there is some public benefit there must be an important use before that occurs"

The current bills address a number of areas in the law highlighted by the Kelo decision. If passed, the bills would ensure condemned property would be used for legitimate public uses as well as better defining public use, prohibit public bodies from delegating eminent domain powers, prohibit condemnation simply for 'blight,' and allow property owners to re-purchase property at condemnation prices if the property isn't used within ten years.

Since the Kelo decision, at least 35 other states have begun work on strengthening their eminent domain statutes. Several states are considering constitutional amendments, while the governor of Connecticut, where Kelo originated, has called for a moratorium on cities using their eminent domain powers.

Alabama and Texas both called a special legislative session to deal with the issue.

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