STATES LOOKING TO LIMIT POWERS OF EMINENT DOMAIN
Recent legislative activity in a handful of states is moving in common direction. Representatives from multiple states are fighting to limit the power to exercise the use of eminent domain in the States of North Carolina, Arkansas, Montana and Idaho.
As we have noted in a previous blog post, the North Carolina bill proposes a constitutional amendment that may affect the entire landscape of the use of eminent domain in that state. Other states’ have introduced bills that are concentrating on more narrow, situation-specific legislation. Arkansas, Montana, and Idaho each have bills that have been proposed to limit the use of eminent domain in specific instances.
In Arkansas, a bill has been filed that seeks to limit the power of eminent domain for Property Owner Improvement Districts. Essentially the bill removes the ability for the Districts to use eminent domain and condemnation to acquire rights-of-way for the District. The bill would continue to allow the Districts to use eminent domain for the purpose of condemning water and sewer utilities located within the District’s boundaries.
In Montana, Senate Bill 180 passed out of committee in a 7-6 vote, denying merchant transmission lines the right to use eminent domain. During the last legislative session lawmakers gave merchant transmission lines and public utility companies the right to use eminent domain. However, in this session there is a push to undo that legislation. Senate Bill 180 is going to the full Senate for a vote.
Farmers and other landowners are at the heart of another bill, this one proposed in Idaho. Last month the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee unanimously voted to print a bill limiting the use of eminent domain for trails, paths, greenways, and walking, running, hiking, equestrian or bicycling use. More specifically, this bill would prevent a proposal by the Portneuf Greenway Foundation for the city of Pocatello to use eminent domain to complete the city’s partially finished greenway system. The greenway would wind through a lot of farmland resulting in several landowners refusing to sell parcels of their land to complete it. Sen. Jim Guthrie, who proposed the bill, said this bill was needed in light of several high-profile eminent domain cases around the country where condemnation was used for purposes other than genuine public infrastructure need.
So what are the overall affects of these bills? Each proposal is unique in its own and to the circumstances of that state. Commonly these proposals are aimed at limiting the power of eminent domain to acquire right-of-way. However, the passing of these bills wouldn’t necessarily mean the greenway in Idaho would have to find a new route or the transmission lines in Montana wouldn’t be erected. Landowners still have the right to negotiate a fair price for their property. Agreements can be reached between a government entity and a landowner for the purchase of their property. Nevertheless, landowners may be able to sleep easier knowing that their property wouldn’t be condemned if they do not concede to the governments’ calls.
If you have any questions regarding eminent domain or condemnation please feel free to call us at 888-318-3761 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Madden, Sever Storey
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