Lawmakers back measures to restrict use of eminent domain: KVOA-TV4 (Tucson AZ), 2/10/06

Arizona legislators are moving to bolster property owners' protections from forced sales to government through the power of eminent domain.

The Senate on Thursday voted 23-5 for a resolution (SCR1008) to ask voters to enact a law creating a new right to trial by jury on whether a condemnation by the state or a local government is for a public use and therefore allowed under state law.

The Senate also approved, 24-4, a bill (SB1110) to declare that a projected increase in tax revenue or other economic benefit doesn't qualify as a public use for which eminent domain can be used.

Meanwhile, the House has given preliminary approval to bills to require that public bodies disclose the scope and cost of projects involved with eminent domain (HB2062), consider eminent domain actions in public (HB2063) and reimburse private property owners for legal costs in some instances (HB2064).

Supporters contend the various pieces of legislation are needed to help property owners facing possible loss of their property, while representatives of local governments contend the measures are unnecessary and overreaching.

Introduction of the measures for this year's legislative session followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year which allowed a Connecticut condemnation for economic development purposes to go forward.

The Arizona Constitution already contains protections for property owners that courts invoked in separate rulings that rejected proposed condemnations for high-profile redevelopment projects in Mesa and Tempe. In each case, a court ruled that the acquisition for private redevelopment didn't qualify as an allowed public use.

KVOA-TV4: http://kvoa.com