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March 31, 2006   Email to Friend 

Eminent Domain Constitutional Amendment Passes Senate

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.

Voting for Final Passage of SB 446 were: Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe; Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville; Sen. Jack Biddle, R-Gardendale; Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison; Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope; Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals; Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville; Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery; Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville; Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo; Sen. Steve French, R-Birmingham; Sen. Jimmy Holley, D-Elba; Sen. Curt Lee, R-Jasper; Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler; Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn; Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman; Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston; Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla; Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne; Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville; Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs; Sen. Phil Poole, D-Moundville; Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega; Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle; Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery; Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb; Sen. Gary Tanner, D-Theodore; and Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham

Voting Against SB 446 were: Sen. Sundra Escott, D-Birmingham; Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile; Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Midfield; Sen. Hap Myers, R-Mobile; Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma; Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro and Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham.


Vote To End Filibuster Clears Way For Passage of Eminent Domain Bill

Final passage of SB 446 limiting the use of eminent domain hinged on a vote to end a Senate filibuster, which began two weeks ago.

Urban senators led by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville and Sen. Hap Myers, R-Mobile, brought work in the Senate to a standstill in an effort to preserve the power of eminent domain for development in their respective cities. Sen. Smitherman sought expanded power to condemn property for redevelopment of blighted areas in downtown Birmingham. Sen. Enfinger wanted to preserve the option to expand Huntsville’s research park, while Sen. Myers was seeking an exemption for private companies doing business through the State Docks.

Twenty-one votes were needed to cut off debate. As the sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Rules Committee, Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, presented a petition for a time-certain vote after 30 minutes of debate. His action was critical to the bill’s passage because any one senator could have blocked passage had the filibuster continued past Wednesday. The vote to end debate passed 24-11.

Voting to end debate were (Listed in order of when they signed the petition for cloture. The first 18 committed to end debate before the issue came to the Senate floor): Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega; Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville; Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery; Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo; Sen. Jimmy Holley, D-Elba; Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla; Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle; Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison; Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne; Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals; Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville; Sen. Steve French, R-Birmingham; Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope; Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham; Sen. Phil Poole, D-Moundville; Sen. Curt Lee, R-Jasper; Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston; Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb; Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler; Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn; Sen. Jack Biddle, R-Gardendale; Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman; Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville; and Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe.

Voting against cloture were: Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville; Sen. Sundra Escott, D-Birmingham; Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile; Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Midfield; Sen. Hap Myers, R-Mobile; Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs; Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery; Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma; Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham; and Sen. Gary Tanner, D-Theodore.

The senate bill was sent to the House County and Municipal Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur. The House version of this bill, HB 622, sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, has been carried over twice in the House County and Municipal Government Committee.


House Committee To Consider Eminent Domain Bill

The fate of a constitutional amendment limiting the use of eminent domain now rests with the House County and Municipal Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur. The committee is scheduled to consider SB 446 when it meets Tuesday at 10 a.m.

With only four legislative days left in the session, it’s critical that the House committee give the bill a favorable report on Tuesday. Failure to do so would jeopardize final passage because the full House would likely not be able to vote on the bill before the last day.

Alabama Farmers Federation members are urged to contact members of the committee over the weekend and encourage them to approve the measure without delay. Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, who sponsored the House version of the bill, has agreed to present SB 446 to the House committee. Federation members should ask committee members to support the Preuitt-Black eminent domain bill.

Members of the County and Municipal Government Committee and their home phone numbers are:

Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, (256) 353-1725;
Rep. George Bandy, D-Opelika, (334) 749-0051;
Rep. Stephen McMillan, R-Bay Minette, (251) 948-5575;
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, (256) 772-8730;
Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, (334) 271-4111;
Rep. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, (205) 798-1045;
Rep. Joe Faust, R-Fairhope, (251) 928-5445;
Rep. Bobby Humphryes, R-Pleasant Grove, (205) 744-0090;
Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford, (256) 761-1935;
Rep. Richard Laird, D-Roanoke, (334) 863-2424;
Rep. Frank McDaniel, D-Albertville, (256) 878-4472;
Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, (256) 582-5696;
Rep. George Perdue, D-Birmingham, (205) 252-7799;
Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, (334) 727-9127; and
Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, (256) 820-6700.


Agriculture Confidentiality Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

A bill that allows the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to implement an animal identification program consistent with the USDA’s National Identification System passed the Senate Thursday by a vote of 20-6. It now heads to the governor for his signature.

HB 254, sponsored by Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, provides that information collected for the purpose of animal identification would be confidential with certain exceptions. This bill would authorize the commissioner to keep information confidential regarding the existence or operation of any agricultural interest or other business regulated by the department.

Gov. Bob Riley’s spokesperson told The Associated Press that the governor would study the bill and decide whether to sign it into law.

At a news conference Thursday, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said the department plans to work with large and small producers alike to help them comply with USDA requirements. While the National Animal ID System will not be mandatory until 2009, Sparks said he hopes producers will voluntarily register their livestock premises, once the governor signs the bill guaranteeing their information will be kept confidential by the Department of Agriculture.

Federation Beef Director Perry Mobley has been authorized by the Department of Agriculture to register premises under the voluntary program. For more information, contact him at 1-800-392-5705, ext. 4221.


Governor Signs Catfish Weighing Bill Into Law

About a dozen Alabama catfish producers joined Gov. Bob Riley at the State Capitol Wednesday as he signed the catfish weighing bill into law.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, requires fish-weighing devices to conform to certain legal requirements. Processors will have to drain the water in weighing baskets containing farm-raised catfish before weighing. The new law also will require farm-raised catfish to be weighed with a device capable of electronically printing a ticket that provides an exact duplicate of the weight indicated to the farmer.

This law will allow a deduction from the weight of the catfish for any foreign substances in the weighing basket.


Senate Postpones Action on ADEM Appointments

The Senate carried over four of Gov. Bob Riley’s nominations to the ADEM Commission Thursday. The delay was organized by environmental activists who seek to gain control of the commission.

Two reappointments are Sam Wainwright, a retired engineer from Dothan, and Dr. John Lester, a veterinarian from Enterprise. Both are experienced commissioners who are familiar with issues important to farmers.

New appointments are Dr. Laurel Gardner, a veterinarian with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Auburn, and Anita Archie, an attorney from Montgomery. The Senate is expected to vote on the appointments Tuesday.


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