Thursday, December 2, 2021

House OKs Amendment to Limit Government Power to Take Private Land

— For the fourth time in seven years, the House has overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the power of state and local governments to condemn private land.

After the 104-9 vote Thursday, House Bill 3 heads to the Senate, where similar proposals have repeatedly died in past legislative sessions.

“Most of the people in this room have voted on this numerous times,” said Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, who sponsored the bill this session after longtime backer Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, didn’t seek re-election in November.

The government’s power of eminent domain is usually limited to taking private land for public use, such as a road, a school or a utility line, McGrady said, but courts sometimes have expanded that to a “public purpose” or “public benefit,” such as turning over blighted property to a developer for a new project.

The proposed amendment, which would have to be approved by voters statewide, would set strict standards to ensure such condemnations couldn’t occur, he said.

North Carolina is one of only a handful of states without limits on eminent domain written into its state constitution, McGrady said, and its the only one where private landowners aren’t allowed to have a jury trial to determine damages when they feel government isn’t compensating them enough for their property. The amendment would bring the state into line with all others, he said.

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