Eminent Domain

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Governor Bob Riley wants to put Alabama's new eminent domain law into the state constitution. A survey of Alabama legislators shows many have the same goal.

In response to an Associated Press survey, about two-thirds of the House and Senate said they would support a constitutional amendment.

Senator Gerald Dial of Lineville says as he goes through his rural district, "that is the number one issue."

In June, the US- Supreme Court issued a five-to-four decision saying local governments could use their powers of eminent domain to seize property needed for private development projects that could generate tax revenue.

A month later, Riley called the Legislature into special session and won enactment of a law preventing city and county governments from condemning property to use for private development, such as a shopping center or manufacturing plant.

It retained the use of eminent domain for traditional projects, such as schools, parks and roads, and to remove blighted neighborhoods.

In a recent interview, the Republican governor said the law addressed the immediate problem, but when the Legislature convenes January 10th, he will ask the lawmakers to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would put the law into the state constitution.

If approved by the Legislature, the next step would be to present the proposed constitutional amendment to Alabama voters in a statewide referendum.

Riley says if the restrictions are put into the constitution, they would be harder to change than a state law.

In an Associated Press survey answered by 73 percent of the House and 91 percent of the Senate, a constitutional amendment had support from 68 percent of the House and 69 percent of the Senate.

Opposition came from 15 percent of the House and 16 percent of the Senate, with 17 percent of the House and 16 percent of the Senate undecided.

Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said he sees no need for a constitutional amendment. He says the law already passed
is strong.