Is the government abusing eminent domain? KVBC-TV3, Las Vegas NV, 10/18/06

In the next several weeks, voters will decide if they believe the government is abusing eminent domain. Eminent domain is when the government seizes your property for public use or for private use if they can prove it will serve the public good.

The mayors of Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, and Boulder City say they don't believe it's right for the government to take land from a private owner and hand it over to another private owner.

They say they agree with portions of Question 2, but they say the initiative also has other provisions that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Question 2, known as the "People's Initiative to Stop the Taking of our Land" or P.I.S.T.O.L., prohibits the use of eminent domain by the government for private development purposes.

While law makers say they agree with that concept, they say voting yes on Question 2 could cost taxpayers $3 to $6 billion over the next several years.

"Question 2 has some provisions that change definitions of what a governmental entity has to pay when it acquires property for a public project," says Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury.

"It goes too far in that there is a provision that requires that any land that's taken must be developed within 5 years which is almost impossible to do in a major transportation and other infrastructure process," said Kara Kelley from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents of Question 2 say the state and local governments would also lose funding because it violates federal regulations. They say for those reasons the initiative could cost taxpayers billions of dollars in additional expenses for our road and highway improvement programs.

"They have fabricated all these numbers," says eminent domain attorney Kermitt Waters. "They have fabricated them to the point that they've taken a few cases in which they went to jury trial and got their got shellacked by the Jury is what they did."

Waters is an eminent domain attorney who helped write the ballot measure. He says Question 2 is a response to years of the government taking advantage of private property owners. "What they give you in money is not near enough to go buy another house similar to it which is what you're constitutionally entitled to," says Waters.

In order for Question 2 to become law, it must pass in this election and then again in 2008. Under Nevada law, when a proposed constitutional amendment is initiated through a petition process, it has to be passed by voters in two separate elections.

KVBC-TV3, Las Vegas NV: http://www.kvbc.com