Eminent domain reform sails past bipartisan panel: Mesabi Daily News (Virginia MN), 5/10/06

Measure will strengthen property rights

By John Hendrickson

The [Minnesota Legislature's] conference committee on the eminent domain reform bill gave it a unanimous nod Wednesday night.

“This is a very strong bill,” said Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, the chief author of the Senate version. “This is a huge victory for property rights.”

Rep. Jeff Johnson, R-Plymouth, authored the House version.

The bill defines public use and prohibits the government from allowing one private individual to take another private individual’s property based on economic development or an increase in tax base.

A public use must be defined for government entities to use eminent domain.

“Government cannot take property unless it is for a public use,” said Bakk.

The conference committee report tightened up language in terms of “just compensation.”

Bakk said “people are treated a lot more fairly” in the reform bill. The measure also gives individuals an opportunity to receive some or all of their attorney fees returned to them.

The bill also puts a value on businesses if the business cannot relocate. Currently, the law requires only payment on the land and the building.

Bakk said this will benefit displaced businesses because many of the owners “have spent years putting their business together.” A provision also includes help with relocation costs and to “re-establish a customer base.”

The bill would be effective the day after it is signed into law.

“This levels the playing field for a property owner negotiating with a government entity,” said Bakk.

Bakk said his bill is “a little bit stronger than when it was passed through the Senate.” He also said that the committee worked in a bipartisan fashion to reach a compromise.

Bakk predicts that the reform bill will pass both the House and Senate sometime early next week, and then be signed into law by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Mesabi Daily News: http://www.virginiamn.com