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February 22nd, 2013 — By — In News & Events

North Carolina House Passes Bill to Limit Eminent Domain to Public Use Only

Last week, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 110-8, House Bill 8, which seeks to limit the government’s power of eminent domain.  HB 8 also passed a first reading in the NC Senate and has been referred to committee.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Chuck McGrady, proposes to amend the state constitution to prohibit the condemnation of private property except for public use, requires just compensation to be paid for property taken, and provides for a trial by jury, should either party request it, to determine the amount of just compensation to be paid.  HB 8 specifically seeks to change the statutory purpose for which condemnors may take property by changing the current language enabling eminent domain from “public use or benefit” (emphasis added) to solely “public use.”  As such, the use of eminent domain to acquire private land for any project other than that which is a true public use such as for the construction of public infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, hospitals), will be prohibited effectively preventing governments and those entities armed with condemnation powers from using eminent domain for private gain.

If HB 8 passes in the Senate, the amendment will be placed on the General Election ballot in November 2014.  This past November, Virginia voters passed a similar amendment to the Commonwealth’s constitution becoming the eleventh state to amend its constitution in response to Kelo.

“In Kelo, the U.S. Supreme Court found that it was constitutional for a government to take a lady’s home where she had lived her entire life, make her sell it, and then for the local government to sell it to developers so they could make more money and the town could get more taxes,” noted McGrady in a news release announcing the bill. “Fortunately, in Kelo, the U.S. Supreme Court also said that the States were free to restrict eminent domain more than that, and that is precisely what my legislation proposes to do,” he explained.

Will North Carolina become the twelfth state to amend its constitution post-Kelo?  We’ll be watching.