Lawmakers move toward compromise on eminent domain: Reno NV Gazette-Journal, 4/25/07

By Joe Mullin, Associated Press

A panel of Nevada lawmakers voted unanimously Tuesday for two compromise proposals that restrict government agencies' use of eminent domain proceedings to acquire property.

Supporters of the compromise told the Senate Judiciary Committee that AJR3 and AB102 will provide strong protections against government abuses of eminent domain powers while still providing the option for large public works, such as transportation projects.

"We want to make sure the people have a lane to drive on, a road to drive on," said Assemblyman Joseph Hardy, R-Boulder City, the chief sponsor of AJR3.

Hardy said that even supporters of last year's Question 2, called the People's Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land or PISTOL by its supporters, recognize that their initiative can be improved. Along with establishing its own protections in eminent domain cases, AJR3 would supersede PISTOL if approved by voters.

PISTOL was one of several intiatives affecting property rights around the country bankrolled by Howie Rich, a New York real estate investor with ties to libertarian groups.

The author of PISTOL, Las Vegas attorney Kermitt Waters, represents landowners in eminent domain cases. Waters confirmed Tuesday he has agreed to the compromise being discussed in the Legislature.

PISTOL goes farther than the two legislative proposals, mandating the highest possible payments for blighted land that can be taken through eminent domain.

Lawmakers pushing the compromise say it includes more evenhanded terms for valuing property, agreed to by both government lawyers and Waters.

The compromise also allows state officials 15 years to complete projects on land taken under eminent domain, instead of the five years allowed under PISTOL.

"PISTOL on its own would have made it almost impossible for us to have used eminent domain," said Jacob Snow, general manager for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

The compromise "will give us the flexibility we need" and still protect property owners' right to fair compensation, he said.

AB102, sponsored by Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, has the same provisions as AJR3 but would take effect immediately. AJR3 is a proposed constitutional amendment, which would take three years to complete.

Reno NV Gazette-Journal: http://news.rgj.com