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.
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.
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