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North Carolina Eminent Domain Legislative Update – Constitutional Amendment still on track

This week represents an important checkpoint for lawmakers in North Carolina, which is known as the “Crossover Deadline.”  In essence, the crossover deadline is a date in the General Assembly’s session calendar by which a proposed bill must have passed one chamber – either the NC House or the NC Senate.  A bill must pass this halfway point in order to remain under consideration.  If a bill is stuck in committee or otherwise hasn’t received a floor vote, then it’s back to the drafting stage.

Advocates for change to North Carolina eminent domain and condemnation law who are concerned about property rights and the use of property by condemning authorities have nothing to worry about, however.  The reason bill sponsors can relax is that their proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution’s eminent domain powers had already passed the House by an overwhelming margin.  We have written about this proposal, House Bill 8, in these earlier blog posts:

  • Another Push for Constitutional Amendments in North Carolina Eminent Domain and Condemnation Cases
  • NORTH CAROLINA EMINENT DOMAIN CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT MOVES FORWARD

Since it already passed the House, the proposed amendment can still be considered by the NC Senate and the Governor.  House Bill 8 has moved around the Senate’s committees since February, as can be seen here:

North Carolina General Assembly - House Bill 8 Information and History

To explain, the Senate received the Bill and it passed its first reading, which was almost automatic.  Two more readings will be required, but before that could happen, the Bill was referred to the Rules and Operations Committee.  After approximately six weeks, House Bill 8 was transfered from the Rules Committee and reassigned to the Judiciary Committee.  These kind of committee reassignments aren’t exactly common, but they are not highly unusual either, and it usually comes at the request of the bill sponsors and the leadership ofthe controlling party in the chamber.  In this case, the committee process is not likely to derail the bill, and nearly all observers expect the proposal to receive committee approval and come to the floor of the NC Senate.  When it does, we can expect strong support by both parties’ members.

In the end, the current consensus among most political observers is that this bill will eventually pass the Senate and be signed by Governor McCrory.  If that happens, the issue will become a Constitutional ballot measure in November of 2014.  Voters in the state will then have to consider and ratify the law by a simple majority.  Successful passage would then limit the ability of condemnation in North Carolina to projects that are for the “public use,” and there would be an absolute right to a civil jury trial to decide compensation in all condemnation cases.

Remember, this bill is not going to have any real affect on some of the larger North Carolina DOT projects that many landowners are worried about, such as the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway, the Greensboro Urban Loop, the LYNX Blue Line Extension in Charlotte, the US 221 Widening in Ashe and Watauga Counties, or the future US 64 Asheboro Bypass, to name just a few.  This law could have a more signficant impact on private condemnors that are focused on economic development zones, rather than traditional infrastructure improvements.

For more information about the Crossover Deadline and other bills, you can read more here:

Which NC bills survived crossover? and follow the News & Observer’s Politics Blog.

 

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