Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bipartisan group speaks in favor of eminent domain bill

Bonilla's bid to shackle land grabs gets hearing


Gary Martin
San Antonio Express-News
Washington Bureau
Copyright 2005

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of lawmakers spoke in favor of a bill Thursday designed to curb eminent domain powers expanded under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, would restrict the reach of local and state governments by penalizing entities for takings.

"It doesn't matter where you live, city, farm or suburbia, eminent domain abuses know no boundaries," Bonilla told the House Agriculture Committee, which heard testimony on the bill.

House leaders have vowed to pass legislation this year to mitigate the June Supreme Court ruling in the Kelo vs. New London, Conn., case.

Republicans and Democrats both have signed onto bills that would counter the ruling.

"I am a firm believer in bringing government interest to projects that are for the good of the public, but using eminent domain for private ventures is a slippery slope that should be avoided," said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

The bill sponsored by Bonilla has 50 co-sponsors, including Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the panel.

It would prevent federal funds from being used on any economic development project by cities or states that use eminent domain to take property.

Another bill filed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which also has bipartisan support, would limit federal funds for any state or local project that resulted from a private taking.

A companion bill to the Sensenbrenner legislation was filed in the Senate by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
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