Posted on Sun, Apr. 30, 2006

Legislature is divided over eminent domain
By Jordan Rau and Virginia Ellis


California law restricts the use of eminent domain to areas that the government has decreed are blighted.

A Democratic proposal pending in the California Legislature would tighten the rules of how property could be seized. But it does not go far enough for Republicans, whose stricter measures have been rebuffed in the Democratic-led body, and they are trying to take the issue to the November elections.

Republican Sen. Tom McClintock has made the subject a central part of his campaign for lieutenant governor. In addition, property rights backers have submitted a number of proposed initiatives. The one considered to have the best chance of making it on the November ballot is a constitutional amendment called the "Protect Our Homes Act." The Fund for Democracy, a New York-based property rights group whose leaders include libertarian developer and term limits advocate Howie Rich, last month contributed $1.5 million for signature collection.

Dave Gilliard, a Republican consultant working on the effort, said the campaign has collected nearly half a million of the 598,105 signatures necessary to place it on the ballot, and expect to file the petitions for verification with elections officials next month.

Like some of the other ballot proposals, the Protect Our Homes Act would amend the Constitution to ban the seizure of property for private uses. But it would also expand the definition of who is affected by government taking in ways that would allow neighboring property owners to receive compensation if their assets become devalued as a result -- a potentially costly change for governments.