The Georgia Senate Takes on Kelo

A press release I received from Amanda Seals, Eric Johnson’s Chief of Staff.

Today, the Senate Committee on Assignments created an interim study committee to address the recent Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v City of New London regarding economic development and eminent domain.

“Yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court undermines the rights of private property owners across the nation. With such a broad interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, America’s highest court has opened the door for the destruction of our neighborhoods and has set a horrifying precedent. Who defines what is for “public good” now that the Fifth Amendment has been so blatantly abused?” Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) said. “The Court has given us no choice but to examine the definitions of eminent domain and economic development. We will use whatever wiggle room we have left to protect the rights of private property owners.”

During the 2005 Legislative Session, the State Senate passed Senate Bill 86, authored by Senator Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick), which protects private property rights from abuses of eminent domain. The purpose is to prevent the exercise of eminent domain for transfers of condemned property to private developers, corporations, or other private entities to increase tax revenues or for economic development. In light of the Supreme Court decision, the Committee on Assignments felt the need to study SB 86 further to determine what state powers remain to protect the rights of private property owners.

Appointees to the committee include Senator Chapman; Senator Bill Heath (R-Bremen); Senator Johnson; Senator Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta); Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth); Senator Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody); and Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons). Senator Chapman will chair the committee.

It’s rather simple really. The legislature should pass a very simple piece of legislation.

No governmental body, agency, or subsidiary with the power of eminent domain shall use such power to transfer private property to any non-governmental person or entity for any purpose. No governmental body, agency, or subsidiary with the power of eminent domain shall use such power to acquire private property and hold such property for lease or other use by any non-governmental entity. Nothing herein shall be construed to prevent a governmental body, agency, or subsidiary with the power of eminent domain from entering into an arms length negotiation with the legal owner of any private property for the sale of said property to thereby accomplish what would otherwise hereby be prohibited. Nothing herein shall be construed to prevent a governmental body, agency, or subsidary with the power of eminent domain from exercises such power to acquire property thereby for public use.

The problem is that the government should be prohibited from both taking private property and giving it to someone else to use as private property and also subverting that by taking private property, holding it as government property, and leasing it to another private land owner to treat as its own.