Oklahoma Lawmakers Vow to Counter Property Ruling

Article excerpt

Several state legislators intend to file legislation to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing municipalities to seize private property for economic development projects.

In that 5-4 judgment Thursday, the divided Supreme Court decided local governments may seize private property - a practice referred to as eminent domain - to make way for privately funded facilities, such as a hotel or office complex.

On Monday, Oklahoma state Sens. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, and Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, as well as state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, each announced they would introduce legislation protecting property owners from government seizures under certain circumstances.

I support the use of eminent domain for roads, bridges and other kinds of infrastructure projects that clearly benefit the public, said Crain. But I do not support selling eminent domain powers to the highest bidder. That's what I'm afraid this Supreme Court ruling could do.

State legislatures will have to take the responsibility to curb the practice as much as possible, said Jolley, noting that the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution only allows the government to take property from citizens for public use.

Reynolds said he would also pursue a state constitutional amendment, which would be decided by the voters and could not be vetoed by a governor who might be influenced by developers who contribute to his campaign.

Reynolds highlighted the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the dissenting opinion that the high court's decision puts all private property in jeopardy.

Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory, wrote O'Connor. …