Pate proposes bill to regulate eminent domain: Goldsboro (NC) News-Argus, 5/11/06

By Andrew Bell

Rep. Louis Pate, R-District 11, filed bills with other Republicans in both state Houses that would change North Carolina's constitution to restrict eminent domain.

The constitution would be amended so that the state government, any local government or political subdivision could not take property by eminent domain for the purpose of economic development, which includes increasing the tax base or the quality of employment in a community.

"I think it's very unfair for the government to exercise that power on a private citizen to benefit another private citizen," Pate said.

If the land is taken for the purpose of a highway that benefits the entire community, Pate said it is an understandable use of eminent domain, but it should not be used for any other economic development purpose.

The United States Supreme Court ruled last year the town of New London, Conn., could use eminent domain to take private property to construct a hotel and convention center. Pate said North Carolina legislators should prevent "going down the same road" as Connecticut.

"The Supreme Court made the determination that Connecticut was within its rights to exercise eminent domain for the private gain of someone else. It's an unfortunate decision. I don't know where in the Constitution the justices saw to give a state that kind of power," Pate said.

Bills were filed in the state Senate and House. The House bill recommended a constitutional amendment, which can only be approved through a statewide referendum.

If the bill passes, the amendment will be on the Nov. 7 ballot. Pate said the only way to ensure property rights are protected is through a constitutional amendment and this is an issue that has affected people throughout the state.

"I think it would have a very good chance of passing. Of course, it would need to be explained to the people. But this has touched a raw nerve with a lot of people and they'd be more than willing to explain this to those that are unfamiliar with it," Pate said.

Goldsboro News-Argus: http://www.newsargus.com