Carolina Plods Towards Eminent Domain Amendment

The Carolina General Assembly is slowly working in a process intended to allow a constitutional amendment to reach the ballot. Once written, it will face the challenge of succeeding. Do not be shocked to see the forces opposing limitations on condemnation proceedings succeed in delaying any constitutional amendment for a few more years. If not delayed, the amendment may be so watered down, it may turn out to be meaningless. The Lincoln Tribune Although it was No. 9 on their 100-day legislative agenda, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly are not expected to take up a constitutional amendment this week that would curb state government's eminent domain powers. Instead, indications are that legislators will address the issue when they reconvene for their "short session" in May next year. If they approve the amendment at that time, the issue could still appear on the General Election ballot in November for final approval by voters. The delay could be a favorable development as it will give lawmakers more time to work out kinks in the language, say private-property rights advocates. The existing version of House Bill 8 says that private property "shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use." Problems with that wording have cropped up because the amendment doesn't define "public use." The U.S. Supreme Court and various lower courts have interpreted public use broadly, said Daren Bakst, director of legal and regulatory studies for the John Locke Foundation (publisher of Carolina Journal). "A constitutional amendment should be specific and should protect against end runs a government can use to take property for economic development," Bakst said. "I appreciate what the House is trying to do, but I have serious doubts that it will work. Too much is being left up to courts to interpret. Given precedents, the courts won't interpret 'public use' the way the House envisions it."

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