Proposal would restrict eminent domain powers in Nevada: Las Vegas NV Sun, 2/19/07

By Amanda Fehd, Associated Press

A bipartisan group of Nevada lawmakers is proposing a constitutional amendment to limit eminent domain powers - the latest development in a multi-pronged response to a 2006 ballot initiative with stronger language.

Freshman Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, is the main sponsor of AJR2, introduced Monday, which would amend the Nevada Constitution to prohibit government taking of private property for any private use.

Last week, the Senate and Assembly introduced similar bills, AB102 and SB85, prohibiting the taking of private property for economic development.

The measures follow voter approval in November of a ballot question with stricter controls on governments.

Question 2, which got 63 percent of the vote, applies to all uses of eminent domain, not just economic development or private use, and was criticized as being too expensive for government because it required that compensation for the land be based on its "highest and best use."

The proposed amendment is a reaction to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that economic development can be considered a public use. The high court also said states could make their own legislation not to allow seizing of property for private purposes.

Ohrenschall said his proposal, like Question 2, would result in a constitutional change, in contrast to AB102 and SB85 which would result in state laws that could be changed by future legislatures.

"Constitutions are much more difficult to amend," he added.

But Ohrenschall also said his proposal, unlike Question 2, isn't "the shotgun effect. It doesn't completely tie the hands of government if there is blight or a desire for open space."

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said he's backing AJR2 even though he'd prefer that eminent domain issues be treated through laws because any unintended consequences are easier to fix.

"If that's the remedy we choose, I want to make sure we put the best language in the constitution," he said, adding that AJR2 would result in changes that would supersede terms of Question 2.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, who also backs AJR2, said any move by the Legislature will likely reflect a recent agreement between Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury and eminent domain attorney Kermitt Waters of Las Vegas.

Waters co-authored Question 2, also known as the People's Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land, or PISTOL. The agreement clarifies details proposed in the ballot question, which must clear another public vote in 2008 to win final approval.

Buckley said lawmakers will likely go for a constitutional amendment because that was the approach of the ballot question. But, she cautioned, "You should always tread carefully when you are talking about amending the constitution."

Las Vegas NV Sun: http://www.lasvegassun.com