Raleigh – There is no doubt the public is overwhelmingly opposed to abusive condemnations. HB 1268, providing a referendum on a constitutional amendment to protect private property rights from abusive condemnation was sponsored by a large bipartisan majority of the House – 52 Republicans and 31 Democrats. But even this support failed to prevent Democrats from mustering 60 votes on July 7 to remove the bill from the floor and refer it back to committee in order to kill it for this session. All 52 Republicans and 5 Democrats opposed this motion. The committee never met in four weeks to hear the bill even though repeated requests were made to the Committee Chair.
Rep. Paul Stam (D-Wake) offered a motion to recall HB 1268 from committee. Speaker Hackney ruled the motion out of order and Rep. Stam appealed the ruling based on House Rule 39. Many sponsors voted to sustain his ruling, effectively killing their own bill on a party line 62-48 vote on August 3. A total of 67 House Democrats voted to kill the bill on either July 7 or August 3, 2009, (excluding only Rep. Bill Owens).
The proposed constitutional amendment with the pending amendment reads:
“Private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use. Public use does not include the taking of property in order to convey an interest in the property for economic development. The preceding two sentences do not apply to takings for access to property. Just compensation shall be paid and, if demanded, shall be determined by a jury.”
If ratified, the people of North Carolina would have voted May 10, 2010, whether to make it a part of our constitution.
Fallout from Kelo v The City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2005 inspired states to affirm protections for private property, setting limits on eminent domain. In Kelo, the High Court ruled local governments could exercise eminent domain to seize private property and then to transfer it to others for a private purpose. House Bill 1268 would have ended this practice in North Carolina. It would also join other states in guaranteeing a jury trial in condemnations and require timely payment of “just compensation.” North Carolina is the only state with no constitutional guarantee of a jury trial in these cases.
“The people of North Carolina want to feel secure – that their property will not be arbitrarily taken by the government,” said Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake).