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March 31, 2006   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
March 31, 2006

MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- An eminent domain bill supported by the Federation passed the Senate Wednesday night following four days of filibustering by urban senators.

SB 446, sponsored by Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, was approved by a vote of 28-7. Dozens of Federation members traveled to Montgomery this week to meet with legislators, resulting in the commitment of key votes needed to break the Senate deadlock. In addition, the Department of External Affairs patched through hundreds of phone calls from voters while the Federation's Department of Organization coordinated visits between members and their senators.

Federation Governmental Affairs Director Freddie Patterson said passage of SB 446 was an excellent example of how effective grassroots involvement can be.

"Our members made the difference on this bill," Patterson said. "They let their senators know what they wanted, and many of those senators responded favorably. At the same time, those who opposed the bill sent a strong message back home about their lack of commitment to defend the rights of farmers and property owners."

SB 446, if approved by voters, would prevent local and state governments from using eminent domain to condemn private property for private development. The proposed constitutional amendment is stronger than the current law, which was passed during last year's special session. It also would be more difficult to change because it would require another vote of the people.

The constitutional amendment preserves the power of eminent domain for legitimate public uses such as roads and utilities. The legislation, however, would prohibit expanding the use of eminent domain for a perceived, indirect public benefit, such as increasing tax revenues. The bill includes a 15-year buy-back clause that would allow the owner to reclaim condemned property if it is not used for the intended purpose or the use is changed. Local governments also would be required to notify property owners about applicable ordinances regarding dilapidated or dangerous properties before exercising eminent domain to condemn them for blight. The proposed amendment also provides protection for landowners who maintain their property in an otherwise blighted area.

Read the March 31, 2006 edition of the Capitol Connection online to see how your senator voted.

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