McKenna kicks off eminent-domain reform push today: Legal News Line, 1/24/07

By Rob Luke

[The state of] Washington's Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna has joined his counterpart in Virginia in seeking legislative changes to his state's eminent domain law in 2007.

The Washington state Senate Judiciary Committee will this afternoon hear the first of two bills on the issue that were first requested by McKenna and Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire.

The bills would require state bodies to notify property owners by certified mail if they are considering condemning the property. They would also require the bodies to publish legal notices in local newspapers stating when and where they will hold open meetings to consider the condemnation.

"Condemnations are critical decisions that can affect people's homes and businesses," McKenna said. "This bill will ensure that property owners receive timely notice that such an important decision is being considered."

Virginia's Republican AG Bob McDonnell earlier this month put forth even more restrictive changes to that state's eminent domain laws. He proposed preventing government from using eminent domain for either economic development, selling to a third party or increasing property values.

"It's critical that the [Virginia] General Assembly get a good, strong property rights protection bill passed this session," McDonnell said.

The bills requested by McKenna and Gregoire are in response to a Washington Supreme Court decision last year in the eminent domain case of Sound Transit vs. Miller. There the court ruled that a posting on Sound Transit's website was adequate notification to inform an owner that his property was slated for condemnation.

The Washington bills will be heard at 3:30 p.m. PT (5:30 p.m. CT) today in Senate Hearing Room 1.

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