With an overwhelming bipartisan vote earlier today of 104 to 9, the North Carolina House passed House Bill 3, legislation that proposes a constitutional amendment to preserve the private property rights of citizens across the state. Representative McGrady was the primary sponsor of the legislation.
The constitutional amendment would specify that any government taking of private property may only be undertaken for a “public use” rather than merely for a “public benefit,” and that “just compensation shall be paid and shall be determined by a jury at the request of any party.”
The voter-approved change would restrain government abuses of property rights in a way that statutory legislation could not. Legislation can be overturned by a simple majority vote of a future General Assembly; once passed by the voters, a constitutional amendment can only be rescinded by both legislative action and popular approval.
North Carolina is one of the few states whose constitution does not explicitly address eminent domain powers.
The change to the constitution is intended as a direct response to the controversial 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which declared that it can be proper for a unit of government to condemn and seize a private citizen’s land and turn it over to a private developer for a general public “benefit” — as in the case of New London, for upgrading the property’s value and thereby increasing city’s revenues.
The introduction of House Bill 3 this year marks the seventh time since 2005 that a bill has been filed in the legislature to address the issue of government takings for private uses. Each of the previous six times, the proposal met with resistance and stalled. Last session, although the proposal enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both chambers, the bill fell victim to last-minute legislative maneuverings in the Senate. But sponsors are counting on a more favorable environment this time around; it may be significant that a companion bill, SB34, has been introduced in the Senate, signaling support across chambers.
Click here to read more. PS: Chuck emailed me to say that: Folks need to talk to their senators.