NFIB plans fight for eminent domain protections: South Florida Business Journal, 3/6/06

The state section of the National Federation of Independent Business has said prohibiting eminent domain abuses by government is its top priority for the 2006 legislative session.

The state small-business advocacy group said it expects the Florida Legislature to address the issue in the wake of last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. New London.

In a recent survey it conducted, the group said 91 percent of respondents said the government's power of eminent domain should be restricted to prevent private property from being seized for private commercial enterprises for economic development.

"Small-business owners believe the government should never abuse its awesome power of eminent domain," NFIB/Florida State Director Allen Douglas said. "Seizing private property for private development or for the expansion of the government¹s tax base does not sit well with small-business owners. NFIB will continue to work closely with the legislature to implement protections for private-property owners."

Douglas said NFIB would also continue to pursue comprehensive civil-justice reform, including eliminating joint and several liability, also known as the "deep pockets" rule.

Joint and several liability can force parties partially or remotely responsible for a loss to pay a disproportionate share of a court award or sometimes even the entire amount.

Last year, the group said, 91 percent of NFIB members responding to a survey said liability should be limited to the percentage of fault assigned to each defendant.

"Florida should join our neighbors in Georgia and South Carolina, which adopted meaningful tort reform last year and addressed the abuses of joint and several liability," Douglas said. "Defendants should be responsible for their share of the blame, but not be targeted because they have deep pockets."

NFIB said it will also pursue reforms to the state's constitutional amendment process.

In particular, the group said small business supports establishing a 60 percent majority threshold to alter the constitution. Currently, it takes a 50 percent plus-one-vote majority to change the constitution.

South Florida Business Journal: http://southflorida.bizjournals.com