Eminent Domain Battle: KSLA-TV12 (Shreveport LA), 4/5/06

By Jeff Ferrell

Louisiana property owners could soon have more protection against forced government buy-outs. The state senate received a proposed bill that would ban such eminent domain buy-outs if the property is then handed over to a private company.

Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial ruling last year, which expanded the power of eminent domain, lawmakers in more than two dozen states rushed to "block" it. Back in June of 2005, Texas State Representative Frank Corte, Jr., of San Antonio, announced during a news conference, "this ruling has sparked a fire storm across the nation, and I cannot sit by - as well as my colleagues here today, in both the senate and the house - and let something happen to the citizens of my district and the rest of the citizens of Texas."

Four months after Corte's comments, in October of 2005, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed new legislation to protect people from having their property seized to benefit another private interest.

Supporters argue emiment domain is important for revitalizing blighted neighborhoods. Bossier City's Louisiana Boardwalk involved one such "forced buyout". It's just one of many reasons why the city is against Senate Bill One in the Louisiana State Legislature that would forbid such actions. Bossier City City Attorney Jimmy Hall explained, "it would have a heavy impact on the city's ability to acquire land for economic development purposes."

Hall also serves on the commission governing The Port of Shreveport Bossier. He says banning such forced buyouts for commercial projects could badly hurt the port. "Oh, our port has a huge number of big projects. Right now, Steelscape, one of the biggest projects around in any port is being built and a lot of the property that's been acquired out there for all the projects that are going on at the port is expropriation property or property that was negotiated with the threat of expropriation."

An effort to exclude ports from Senate Bill One failed. Now the 270-thousand people employed statewide in the industry nervously await word on the fate of that bill, as do thousands of others who support it. Senate Bill One is just the first of 30-bills filed this legislative session in Baton Rouge that would limit eminent domain relating to commercial projects.

KSLA-TV12: http://www.ksla.com