Eminent domain abuse bill leading list of early filings: (Lafayette LA) Daily Advertiser, 3/3/06

Louisiana lawmakers are already filing bills for the 60-day legislative session that opens March 27. ... Thus far, the most needed legislation is a bill by Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, proposing a constitutional change to prevent what has become known as "eminent domain abuse." It would tighten language in the Constitution allowing government to take property " for a public purpose." Essentially, the Bruneau bill would block expropriation of land for commercial uses, preventing government and business from joining forces to condemn homes and replace them with businesses that increase the tax base.

In a recent five-year period, according to the New York Times, "there were 10,000 reported cases of cities and states condemning or threatening to condemn homes and businesses to make way for private companies to expand."

"Unfortunately," the Times says, "the victims ... are most often the elderly, the poor and minorities. They lack the money and political power to persuade the government to respect their rights."

General Motors Corp., for example, once persuaded the city of Detroit to condemn a neighborhood called Poletown and sell it cheap to GM to build an auto factory.

The city of Merriam, Kan., condemned a Toyota dealership so it could sell the land to a BMW dealer.

A frequently cited example of the ability of corporate lobbyists to convince cities to give them someone else's land involves billionaire Donald Trump. He convinced Atlantic City, N.J. to condemn an elderly widow's home so he could build a limousine parking lot.

The basic argument of corporate lobbyists is that the public good will be served. The underlying motivation for cities to respond favorably is that the new occupant of the property will increase the city's tax base.

Several organizations are fighting eminent domain abuse across the country. Bruneau's bill will be a strong weapon in the battle here. It has been filed early. We hope it will be passed quickly - and that the constitutional change will be made in a timely fashion.

The Daily Advertiser: www.theadvertiser.com