Judge keeps Nevada eminent domain initiative on the ballot: Las Vegas (NV) Sun, 8/8/06

By Kathleen Hennessey, Associated Press

A Clark County (NV) district judge on Tuesday ruled against government groups that want to prevent an initiative aimed at curbing eminent domain abuses from appearing on the November ballot.

Judge Mark Denton rejected arguments from opponents of the People's Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land [PISTOL], who argued that the measure addresses several separate issues in violation of a state law requiring initiative petitions to deal with only one subject.

"Basically, the judge used a lot of common sense and realized the entire initiative petition is about eminent domain and the rights of people in eminent domain-type functions," said Don Chairez, a former judge and a Republican candidate for attorney general who led the petition drive.

Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, one of the PISTOL opponents who filed the complaint, said the group will appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

PISTOL, which gathered 137,698 signatures, would stop governments from acquiring private land through eminent domain and then selling the land for private development. The effort was a reaction to last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing governments' eminent domain authority to be used to obtain land for commercial purposes that generate tax revenue.

The high court also said states are free to ban acquiring property under eminent domain for such projects. Nevada is one of several states considering such bans.

Woodbury said he agrees that eminent domain should not be used to take land for commercial projects, but argues that other provisions in PISTOL could make the state ineligible for some federal transportation funding. He cited an undated Federal Highway Administration internal memorandum, obtained and circulated by the Regional Transportation Commission, which says the petition is "in direct violation" of federal rules governing financial aid for transportation projects.

"It's all of the fine print, which is the vast majority of the wording in the petition and which would have a very devastating effect on public works programs," Woodbury said.

Chairez called such concerns, "premature."

Tuesday's hearing was limited to a discussion of the "single subject" rule.

Among entities that joined Woodbury in challenging the initiative were a group called Nevadans for the Protection of Property Rights Inc., Clark County, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Nevada Contractors Association, Associated General Contractors, Nevadans for Nevada, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

Las Vegas (NV) Sun: http://www.lasvegassun.com