House OKs eminent domain changes: Lansing (MI) State Journal, 6/1/06

Landowners' rights bolstered; cities' use of tool restricted

By Associated Press

The state House overwhelmingly passed legislation Wednesday aimed at strengthening Michigan landowners' rights when government wants to take their property for economic development.

Supporters said the bipartisan bills would place into state statute the allowable uses of eminent domain as established in a 2004 Michigan Supreme Court ruling.

The legislation is designed as a complement to a proposed constitutional amendment about eminent domain that will be on the November ballot in Michigan.

The main bill in the House package would bar governments from using eminent domain unless it is for "public use," prohibiting the taking of private property for economic development or more tax dollars.

It also requires that homeowners be compensated at 125 percent of their property's fair market value.

The state Senate has passed similar legislation.

Others House bills would let judges award attorney fees to low- and moderate-income people whose lawsuits contesting the condemnation of their homes are deemed reasonable but ultimately are unsuccessful.

Another bill would raise the amount in moving expenses the government pays to displaced residents.

The legislation now goes to the Senate.

Eminent domain typically is used to clear space for highways, airports or schools.

But governments also use the power for economic development projects that attract jobs and tax dollars.

The state Supreme Court in 2004 ruled unanimously that such economic development projects do not constitute a public use under the 1963 state constitution.

Lawmakers say the constitutional amendment is needed because the makeup of the state's high court could change.

Most of the bills received unanimous approval, though Rep. Ed Clemente, D-Lincoln Park, voted against one measure.

Lansing State Journal: http://www.lsj.com