Eminent-domain fight to move back to Legislature

Despite the rejection of Proposition 90, property-rights activists, local officials and state lawmakers all have eminent domain on their minds as they look to the 2007 legislative year–and the 2008 ballot.
The eminent-domain issue is still on the table, said Jean Hurst of the California State Association of Counties. “CSAC is very open and eager to resolving the eminent-domain abuse question.”
But Proposition 90 supporters say the solution being crafted by local officials and developers–Proposition 90’s strongest opponents–is not likely to satisfy them.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of maneuvering on their part, and some interesting dynamics involved in the next year,” said Kevin Spillane, who consulted the Yes on 90 campaign. “I think we can anticipate their plays, and we’re going to take our own counter-measures based on what we know they’re going to do.”
The Legislature tried, through several different legislative vehicles, to deal with the issue in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 in the case of Kelo v. New London. The ruling effectively allowed for local governments to exercise eminent-domain rights to transfer private party to another owner if it constitutes a “public benefit.”
“What they’re trying to do now is a sham piece of leg which isn’t pure Kelo reform, but simply claims to be,” Spillane said. When asked if the fight over eminent domain was over, he said, “Oh, hell no.”
The Kelo decision sparked a wildfire of legislation across the country, with over 30 state bills and propositions seeking to find a solution to the new ruling. Similar measures to Proposition 90 have passed elsewhere, such as in Arizona and Nevada, but opponents in California said the law effectively would undermine the zoning power of local governments.
Hurst said CSAC hopes the Legislature can come up with a compromise that avoids a rematch of the Proposition 90 ballot showdown. “I think that [the Legislature is] the best avenue.

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