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Georgia Citizens are getting lip service on eminent domain and property rights in HB-1313
by Mike Crane

When our Founding Fathers created the Constitution of 1787 they used the term public to define for what purposes government could exercise "eminent domain." Eminent domain is of course the power of the government (federal, State and local) to seize a citizen's property against their will.

Using a dictionary of the times the definition of "public" is not very hard to understand - "NOT private."

Pretty simple isn't it?

Well it seems that when "big money" is involved, even simple and very clear definitions are beyond the understanding of too many elected officials. To them the definition of "public" when used for the purposes of seizing a citizens property has a different definition - "money."

Corporations, primarily ones that deal with development have discovered that it is cheaper to make campaign contributions than to buy land on the open market. To them the work "public" also has the same definition as many of our elected officials - "money."

In 2005, prior to the much discussed Supreme Court decision, HR - 87 was introduced in the Georgia Legislature. This bill would let the citizens of Georgia VOTE in November on closing the eminent domain loopholes in the Georgia Constitution.

Now isn't that a novel concept - Let the People Vote and decide what they want their government to do.

Well it is not going to happen, HR - 87 is sitting in committee and has not even had public hearings. Meanwhile, over a dozen other bills have been introduced that only give lip service to letting the citizens decide if they want to protect their property or not.

Due to the high level of public interest there will be a show of standing up for your property rights. But if this had been more than just a show - HR - 87 would have been quickly passed.

The advice from Sue Ella Deadwyler's commentary below is good advice for HB-1313, but the real question for your State Representative and Senator should be:

"Why didn't you pass HR-87?"

Do not accept something that leaves the loopholes! If this crop of legislators will not protect your property - then throw them out and try again with a new batch. Its your government - why should you pay or vote for government that will not protect your rights?

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Sue Ella Deadwyler's WMVV Radio Commentary, 3/20/06

Eminent domain became a household word last year when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the economic status of government is more important than the citizens' constitutional right to own and be secure in his property.

Right now I'm remembering what situations could cause a person's possessions to be confiscated or forfeited as contraband.  For example, any person convicted three times of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol could lose the vehicle he's driving. Also, a person convicted three times for driving a vehicle after sniffing glue, aerosol or other toxic vapors could have the vehicle taken as contraband and sold within 60 days.

For years it's been a misdemeanor to sell or use or buy or store instruments or devices for illegal drug activities, but a third conviction becomes a felony and all drug-use devices and instruments will become contraband to be destroyed.  The same is true for equipment used to make false identification documents.  Gambling devices, slot machines, obscene material, proceeds from pimping, gang-related possessions and weapons may be taken as contraband.

Notice the common theme in all of these situations.  For a person's possession to be legally taken by law enforcement, it must be involved in something illegal.  So, law-abiding people don't worry about having their cars or machinery or reading material or guns or money confiscated by government.  But there is an exception.  The most valuable thing you own is, probably, real estate, but, without your breaking any law, your land or home or business may be taken if government or a developer wants to use if for something else.

After more than a year of meetings and hearings and visits to towns where eminent domain has caused problems, a 33-page change in eminent domain law passed the House on March 9.  H.B. 1313 softens current law but does not come down solidly on the side of property owners. It allows blighted property to be taken by eminent domain and redeveloped.  Since the term "blight" has been notoriously misused in eminent domain cases, protectors of private property wanted the loophole removed.  That did not happen.  H.B. 1313 declares that a purpose of government is to use eminent domain to finance the purchase and preparation of land for redevelopment in order to stimulate better housing and a more desirable neighborhood.

H.B. 1313 went into the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 13 and needs major changes.  If enough of you call your own senators and ask them to protect your property rights, good changes could be made. And, while you have the phone in your hand, call the governor at 404-656-1776 and tell him what you think about ignoring your property rights so government can collect more taxes.  H.B. 1313 is not a done-deal until it passes both House and Senate.  It'll probably wind up in a conference committee that could change it altogether.  Let's get on the phone and make it happen.  Government officials are supposed to protect the people and not cave in to the demands of business.



DVD Available on Eminent Domain

Partial List of Eminent Domain bills in Georgia Legislature

Eminent Domain - A gapping loophole and abuse

Eminent Domain - Watch out for SB-414

Southern Party candidate endorses HR 87 on Eminent Domain

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