House passes eminent domain reform: Atlanta (GA) Business Chronicle, 3/9/06

By Ryan Mahoney

The Georgia House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved Gov. Sonny Perdue's omnibus eminent domain reform package.

House Bill 1313 has been touted as the nation's most comprehensive proposal to curtail government's power of eminent domain for economic development since a June U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door for states to restrict the practice.
Perdue floor leader Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) outlined HB 1313 prior to the 173-1 vote. The bill would:
  • Ban eminent domain for economic development
  • Strictly define the conditions of blight and public use under which property may be taken
  • Require those conditions be applied on a property-by-property basis, rather than across entire neighborhoods or portions thereof
  • Require housing and development authorities to get approval from the elected bodies that appoint them before using eminent domain
  • Require the government to prove that condemnation is necessary, rather than the property owner to prove that it isn't
  • Give owners more compensation for confiscated property and allow them to testify about its value
  • Allow owners to repurchase property if the government does not use it

Also speaking in favor of the bill were House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), whose committee debated HB 1313 for more than 30 hours; Ways and Means Chairman Larry O'Neal (R-Warner Robins), who sits on the judiciary committee; and first-term Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough).

"We're footsteps away from really making history," O'Neal said. He called HB 1313 "the first meaningful legislation that attempts to restore our very precious property rights."

"Government is not here to subject its citizens to tyranny," said Davis, whose district borders property pursued by the city of Stockbridge in a highly publicized eminent-domain-for-economic-development case. "When you went to court, it was always assumed that the government was right ... this bill changes that."

Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) was the only member to vote against HB 1313 or House Resolution 1306, an accompanying constitutional amendment that passed by a similar margin.

The measures now go to the Georgia Senate.

Atlanta Business Chronicle: http://atlanta.bizjournals.com