House Takes on Eminent Domain: WTOK-TV11, Meridian MS, 1/4/07

By Wendy Suares

The Mississippi House of Representatives passed its first bill of the 2007 session, limiting the government's right to take your property through eminent domain.

It's the second year in a row lawmakers are taking on eminent domain. They're acting against a Supreme Court decision ruling your land can be taken by the government for private use.

"To make sure big corporations like Wal-Mart and others don't come in and take your home, take your church, take your business, take your cemetery. This is to protect property owners of this state," said Rep. Jamie Franks of Mooreville.

The House bill restricts eminent domain for economic development use and allows the original land owner to buy the land back if it sits unused for ten years.

Eminent domain gained attention in Mississippi back in 2001 when the state acquired land in Canton for Nissan. Franks says his bill would not have stopped Nissan from building its plant, but there are other concerns about the bill that flew through the House so early in the session.

"We've been here two days. It hadn't had time to be thought through," said Rep. Jim Simpson of Pass Christian. "There are a lot of technical problems with the language."

Simpson warned fellow lawmakers the bill would hurt communities that try to recruit new industrial parks. Still, he says the idea behind the bill is a good one and it stands a shot of passing this year.

"If people will work on it in good faith and put some work into it and not just try to get political mileage out of it, yeah, it's got a good shot," Simpson said.

The House easily passed the Eminent Domain Bill just as it did this time last year, but last session both Chambers ultimately killed it the last week of session.

Sen. Charlie Ross also introduced an Eminent Domain Bill in 2006. He said he plans to do the same again this session.

WTOK-TV11, Meridian MS: http://www.wtok.com