Legislators discuss eminent domain: Billings MT Gazette, 10/27/06

Associated Press

Lawmakers are looking at changes proposed to Wyoming's eminent domain law by representatives of the energy industry and agriculture groups, though one Wyoming Stock Growers Association board member feels left out of the process.

The bill was written over two days by leaders of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, among others.

The Joint Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Committee Chairman adopted the bill in a meeting Thursday.

Not involved in the bill-drafting, however, was the Landowners Association of Wyoming. The group had previously collaborated with the other groups on eminent domain reform. Taylor Haynes, a Stock Growers Association board member, told the interim committee in a letter that by leaving out the Landowners Association of Wyoming, the Stock Growers Association had left its own members out.

"If industry and its accomplices would be so brazen as to forward such a misrepresentation to this committee of our law making body, what do they do to little individual landowners?" Haynes wrote.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Stock Growers Association, said there was no effort to leave out its own committee leaders or members. He and said many of those people had attended the bill-drafting sessions.

"The substitute bill represents collaborative effort among a wide array of people," Magagna told the interim committee.

However, Haynes also wrote: "The appearance of my name on an attendance list does not mean I agree with the proceeding."

Leaders of the energy and agriculture groups said their bill was the true collaborative effort that represented compromise.

But Laurie Goodman, president of the Landowners Association of Wyoming, said her group had worked hard to reach several compromises with members of the energy and agriculture industries.

"We're not asking to stop a project, we're not asking to slow it down. We're asking that we be partners in the process," she said.

Private property advocates have called for notifying landowners of eminent domain proceedings sooner and enacting more stringent rules for compensation. They've also called for a "public necessity" requirement to be met before condemnation occurs.

The bill written by the agriculture and energy industry leaders didn't include those provisions. Magagna said they "went too far" and would have rendered the bill dead on arrival if brought to the Legislature.

The committee wrote notification and compensation provisions into the bill. The measure next heads to a select House committee for more work.

Billings MT Gazette: http://www.billingsgazette.net