Could eminent domain issue go before voters? New Mexico Business Weekly, 12/11/06

New Mexico's eminent domain opponents are hoping the state will follow in the footsteps of nine other states in protecting private property owners from the government's tool of eminent domain.

Last month, voters in nine states approved ballot initiatives limiting the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. New Mexico has not put the issue before voters and there is no indication that it will be put on a ballot any time soon.

Instead, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson this year appointed a task force to examine the use of eminent domain. It recommended in November that the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes should be removed from the Metropolitan Redevelopment Act, the state legislation that regulates how revitalization areas and improvement districts are to be redeveloped.

Of the 34 states that have limited the ability of state and local governments to take private property for such purposes, only a handful have outright struck eminent domain from their codes. Others focused on procedural protections for private property owners, such as providing adequate compensation and property value for takings under the clause. The use of eminent domain as a federal statute was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London, Conn. case in which private property was being seized for a private, commercial redevelopment project.

The city of Rio Rancho, northwest of Albuquerque, has utilized eminent domain more than other municipalities in the region. It cites its use in successfully converting outdated property into redevelopable land for public utilities and other investments.

Richardson has not indicated how he might respond to the task force's recommendations. A bill is most likely going to be introduced in January during the 2007 legislative session.

New Mexico Business Weekly: http://albuquerque.bizjournals.com