Mixed verdict nationwide on eminent-domain proposals: Sacramento CA Bee, 11/9/06

By John Hill

California and several other states that considered changes to private property rights delivered a mixed verdict Tuesday.

While voters in nine of 12 states approved measures to limit government use of eminent domain, California and two others rejected more ambitious proposals to compensate landowners when rules and regulations reduce property values.

Still, backers of California's Proposition 90 said the vote showed that such a measure could pass, and vowed to gather signatures to put it on the ballot in 2008.

"The bottom line is we're going to be back, better funded and stronger than before," said Kevin Spillane, a Proposition 90 campaign consultant.

Opponents said they would try to defuse such a move by getting the Legislature to address eminent domain changes, minus Proposition 90's requirement that landowners be compensated when any regulation or law impinges on property values.

"We think the Legislature is the place where this debate should occur," said Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities.

Proposition 90 was narrowly defeated Tuesday, with 47.5 percent of voters in favor and 52.5 percent opposed. The measure would have prohibited governments from using the power of eminent domain to take property for use by a private developer.

And it would have required governments to compensate property owners when regulations and laws resulted in "substantial" economic losses. Opponents said this provision would have applied to everything from environmental rules to workplace protections.

Nine states passed so-called "property rights" measures, most of them barring governments from handing over property that they condemn to private developers.

The states were motivated by a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. New London, that allowed a Connecticut city to condemn homes as part of a neighborhood revitalization project.

One of those states, Arizona, passed a law that went beyond eminent domain to also require property owners to be compensated if certain land-use laws reduced property values.

But two other states besides California, Washington and Idaho, rejected measures that addressed the issue of "regulatory takings."

Sacramento CA Bee: http://www.sacbee.com