Eminent domain reforms on the brink of approval: (Terre Haute IN) Tribune Star, 3/2/06


An important piece of legislation that would place badly needed restrictions on government use of eminent domain to seize private property is working its way toward passage [in Indiana].

A Senate version of the law passed Tuesday night and must go back to the House for approval. Hopefully, House members will concur with the reasonable language approved by the Senate and the law will be sent to the governor’s desk. When that happens, Gov. Daniels should sign it — with an exclamation point.

According to an Associated Press report, under the bill, property must meet certain conditions of being blighted before it could be taken by government eminent domain for private purposes. The conditions could include property being unsafe, unsanitary or uninhabitable by people.

The Senate version does contain an exception that would allow governments that occupy most of an area in question to take just a few parcels, as long as they were not owner-occupied, if they were needed to complete an economic development project.

The proposal would force governments to pay 125 percent of fair-market value for farmland and pay homeowners 150 percent of the value of their property in order to seize it for such purposes.

Hopefully, the exception won’t create an obstacle for what is otherwise a necessary bill to curb seizing of private property by public entities.

The Indiana General Assembly is tackling reforms to eminent domain laws this year in response to a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that allowed cities and other governments to seize homes and businesses for private development. The ruling created the need for local safeguards to protect landowners.

To its credit, the Legislature responded aggressively to curb potential abuses of eminent domain laws and is on the brink of putting a reasonable proposal on the governor’s desk.

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