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CA Propositions Target Eminent Domain Laws

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May 27, 2008

Anaheim, CA - Next week, Californians will vote on the use of eminent domain, a government's power to take private property for public purposes. Two opposing ballot measures, Propositions 98 and 99, would restrict eminent domain in the state - but that's where the similarities end.

Supporters of Proposition 99 say the initiative would prohibit government agencies from using eminent domain to take an owner-occupied home in order to transfer it to another private owner or developer. Sarah Rose is with the California League of Conservation Voters.

"Proposition 99 is powerful, honest reform that protects homes from eminent domain abuse and it contains no other agendas; it is simply a measure that gives homeowners protections from any concerns they might have about eminent domain."

The other ballot measure, Proposition 98, also would place restrictions on eminent domain seizures; however, it includes a phase-out of rent control. Proposition 98 supporters say rent control and other government regulations are private property rights issues. But in Rose's view, "98" is far more restrictive. She's concerned that it would greatly limit affordable housing in the state.

"It's a scheme by landlords to use the prospect of eminent domain reform as a way to rewrite the California Constitution, to get around environmental laws and eliminate protection for renters."

Rose cites a provision in Proposition 98 that gives property owners additional rights when government regulations to protect the environment impose a cost on a property owner. The proposition says in such cases, the property owner would be entitled to compensation, or could file a lawsuit to counter the regulation. Opponents feel passage of Proposition 98 would make it more difficult to enforce environmental protections.

Lori Abbott/Steve Powers, Public News Service - CA