Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Great Result on Eminent Domain

I was positively delighted to learn that House Bill 1010, which provides restrictions to the commercial use of eminent domain in our state, emerged from Committee, passing on a 10-0 vote. Moreover, in support of the NK Hurst Company, the bill was made retroactive to November, which means the Stadium Authority's attempt to steal the Hurst land via eminent domain proceedings would be foiled.

There are many worthwhile articles to read on the subject. I recommend these few:

Inside Indiana Business news report with audio from Jim Hurst.
Indianapolis Star article with the pertinent details.
Shall Not Perish's commentary, from Rob Beck.
Mike Sylvester's first person account of his testimony given to the Committee at the Statehouse.

To those ready to celebrate, I urge caution. Now that the bill has left the Committee, it enters that phase of the game which earned the comparisons to making sausage, which specifies that you don't want to see the process. In fact, now is the time that the opponents of eminent domain abuse, and the supporters of the NK Hurst Company, need to be most vigilant. Citizens need to continue to contact their State Senators and Representatives with letters, emails, and phone calls, to let them know that they need to stand firm on curtailing eminent domain abuse. If legislators only hear from lobbyists on the other side, the other side will be effective.

Lobbyists will now besiege the members of the General Assembly, hoping to get amendments added that would water down, or even gut this very solid bill that the Committee just passed. Expect several mayors and town or city councilors to so lobby, and especially the increasingly villainous Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.

In a local note, I sadly observed that Hamilton County Attorney Mike Howard testified on the side of allowing municipal governments to steal land from property owners. From the Louisville Courier-Journal report:
Hamilton County Attorney Mike Howard said using eminent domain for economic development virtually would be ended if the legislation passes because the definition of blighted is too difficult to meet.

"I suggest to you that you may be taking the pendulum a little too far," he said. "Please think seriously about leaving this tool in the tool box of local government."

There is no "too far" when it comes to protect the rights of private property owner. The problem with leaving the blighted tool in the tool box is that the definition of blight is so regularly stretched by local governments in order to suit the desires of some elected officials and the developers they befriend. This is exactly the problem in the Kelo v. New London case.

Alas, Howard is just another Hamilton County Republican who wavers on private property, along with Luke Kenley and Meredith Carter. Shame!

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