After Ruling, New Property Laws? Lawmakers Expect Measures to Limit Government's Ability to Seize Private Land

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY DICKSON

State lawmakers predicted Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court decision on eminent domain will prompt legislation curbing municipalities' abilities to take private property.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that local governments can legally condemn property over owners' objections and pay market value for it. The case before the court came from New London, Conn., where a few homeowners were holding out against city efforts to move them off property the city wants for a waterfront development.

There already are bills in committee in the Georgia General Assembly that would limit local government's rights to condemn property, the most prominent of which is Senate Bill 86, introduced last session by state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick. The bill passed the Senate, but was tabled by one vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

Chapman and other legislators said they expect the Georgia House to take action on the bill in the 2006 session. The bill would limit eminent domain to public use, such as acquiring land for roads, bridges, public utilities and other government facilities, Chapman said.

Many cities have used eminent domain to condemn land and resell it to private developers to increase the tax base and create jobs, which Chapman argues violates private property rights.

He called it a great disappointment to see the high court hand local government such "broad power to seize homes and businesses to promote economic development."

"This is how socialism operates. We live in America, where private property rights ought to mean something," he said. …