Benton measure to protect private-property rights receives hearingBill would prevent private property from being taken for an out-of-state entity's useOLYMPIA… The power of eminent domain is one of the most sweeping and invasive powers granted to government. It allows the state to take private property for public use. And while that authority may be delegated by the state to municipalities, Sen. Don Benton warned his colleagues today that it is an abuse of that authority for a municipality to delegate that power to an out-of-state entity.
Benton’s comments today came at a hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
“This bill comes out of a unique situation in Clark County, where the local transit agency has contractually ceded its rights of eminent domain over to Portland’s transit agency,” Benton testified.
“Washington property owners shouldn’t be forced to defend their property rights against a state, locality or transit authority that they have no voice in choosing. The people who wield that awesome power to take an individual’s private property should always be accountable to the people affected.”
Benton, R-Vancouver, was referring to C-TRAN, Clark County’s transit agency, which recently cut a deal to transfer its eminent-domain authority to condemn and transfer all properties demanded by Tri-Met, Portland’s transit agency, for the purpose of operating a light-rail line over the Columbia River. Clark County officials also granted Tri-Met the right to unlimited breach-of-contract penalties against C-TRAN and its taxpayers.
Senate Bill 6125 in its entirety reads simply:
“No private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use that is to be transferred for use or possession by a governmental agency of another state. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern.”
Benton, a longtime advocate for property owners and taxpayers, laid out for the committee several benefits of the measure.
“This bill prevents legal action,” Benton said, “because without it, the potential for inconsistent verdicts in two separate court actions between two states is always going to be a real possibility. There’s also the issue of basic fairness. The idea that citizens of one state would have to defend eminent-domain action initiated by another state would violate due process and basic concepts of state sovereignty. There’s the constitutional issue: This is part of the reason why the Constitution allowed for federal oversight on interstate disputes – thus eliminating a home-field advantage for either party in its own state.”
Benton also pointed out that there are legal questions around the C-TRAN deal with Tri-Met.
“A recent opinion in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals questioned the ability of a municipality to initiate eminent-domain proceedings outside its territorial jurisdiction,” Benton warned. “The bottom line: We must do everything in our power to protect the property owners and taxpayers of this state.”
Benton urged the committee to adopt an “emergency clause,” which would let the bill take effect immediately if adopted by the Legislature.—30—
Please visit Sen. Benton’s Web site: www.senaterepublicans.wa.gov/benton
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
This is what they used to call a "good little bill."
Fassssscinating. This would be awesome if they can get it passed...