Popular eminent domain question tops state ballot: Macon GA Telegraph, 10/25/06

By Greg Bluestein, Associated Press

Georgia's fight to limit the government's power to seize private property blossomed at a tiny florist shop in Stockbridge which city officials hoped to supplant with a new retail and City Hall complex.

The owner's legal battle to keep his property still rages in the state's Court of Appeals, but his outrage helps explain why property rights are the top ballot issue of the election season.

"People are fed up with it," said Mark Meeks, who compares the government's attempts to seize his Stockbridge Florist and Gifts Shop with "legalized plunder."

"Those same guys, if they were private citizens, someone would be coming to arrest 'em right now," he said.

Georgia is among 13 states with ballot issues on property rights this year, making it the year's most popular ballot issue, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The sudden attention was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in June 2005 that granted local governments more power to seize private property for economic development.

"That ruling essentially invited states to be more restrictive on the use of eminent domain," said Larry Morandi, the conference's director of state policy research. "And we saw 30 states either pass legislation or proposed constitutional amendments in response. And in those states that didn't act, we're seeing citizen initiatives."

On Georgia's ballot, voters will weigh a constitutional amendment that would take the power of "eminent domain" away from unelected housing and development authorities, requiring elected officials to make the decision. It would remove the power of eminent domain for redevelopment, other than for public purposes.

Macon GA Telegraph: http://www.macon.com