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Eminent Domain the Governor's Shell Game

The following article by Don Casey was published in the Beacon Newspaper, which explains the problems with the Governor's legislation.

The 2005 special session of the Alabama legislature is now history. Touting pride in accomplishments, State politicians will no doubt point to passage of the budget (which should have been passed in the regular session), sex crime legislation (passage assured after Bill O'Reilly (Fox News) chided Governor Riley on national television) and "eminent domain" legislation which became a blip on the public's radar screen, after the United States Supreme Court ruled in a Connecticut case that States could, under their own authority, seize private property for economic development.

The latter, "private property rights" is the government's most effective method to strip the individual of his wealth and freedom.

"Private property rights," summarized in the adage "a man's home is his castle" is merely a saying that is not embodied in current law. Recent changes in the special session have NOT strengthened "eminent domain" laws in the property owner's favor. Through the efforts of various organizations

- Alliance for Citizen Rights, Alabamians for Real Reform, Eagle Forum, etc. and talk radio, the governor's bill HB14, was turned from a developer's dream come true to a pussycat waiting for the mouse to come out and play - SB68.

Both bills will, in the end, allow the government to take private property for economic development. But, SB68, which received approval July 26th and awaits the governor's signature, is much closer to closing loopholes than the governor's initial effort in HB14.

The loopholes in SB68 are found in the following passages:

* "...a municipality or county may not condemn property...." -

for economic development. This restriction does not include "housing authorities" which under Alabama code are granted "eminent domain" power.

And the restriction does not apply to a

* "...municipality, housing authority, or other public entity based upon a finding of blight in an area..."

The ability of "other authorities" to exercise eminent domain is easily perceived to be a loophole. But, the second loophole found in the meaning of the word "blight," is without a doubt crafted by deceptive professional politicians, socialist planners and greedy developments/realtors with the intent to steal what they can during the reorganization of society. This cabal, which sets the example for deceit, is well aware that if the definition of the word were included in SB68 verbiage, it would have doomed the bill to failure. Here is why - a "blighted" area, according to the Alabama law, is an area that:

* "...impair economic values and tax revenues, cause an

increase in and spread of disease and crime and constitute a menace to the health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the state.." Section 24-2-1 (2)

The phrase "Impair economic values and tax revenues" allows one to focus on the true motives of the cabal - money - your money.

In Tuscaloosa, a portion of the business district was declared, "blighted." The redevelopment project will require the relocation of numerous businesses and cost fifty million dollars. With that kind of money, is it any wonder that politicians display a desire to "kiss the baby" - support strong eminent domain legislation - thus concealing the intent to "tax and spend" and improve the government's ability to seize private property.

Homewood, Alabama has three neighborhoods that have been declared, "blighted" - Edgemont, Edgewood, and Rosedale. How many redevelopment projects are underway across the State is unknown. But it is safe to say that the cabal's clout will be felt in the coming battle for a Constitutional amendment that truly protects private property owners.

Adding insult to this injury, the legislature stipulates that the owner of the condemned property receive compensation for the land's "current use"1. Example - a retired couple on a fixed income looking to remain in their home for the rest of their lives are forced to relocate. The government does not reimburse them for moving expenses or possible impact fees when they purchase another house. The couple's compensation for their property is determined by the government's evaluation of the land's "current use" - a house and a lot. Hardly an equitable situation considering that the developer and government officials will line their coffers with profits that should have gone to the retired couple.

The remedy to this situation requires the implementation of a four letter word - WORK - and the desired results are not guaranteed.- BUT - without the -WORK - the situation will absolutely not change.

What to do?

Obtain a copy of SB91, from http://www.alabamapropertyrigths.org or from the Alabama legislature's website. If you do not have internet access, your library will provide the connection and a copy of the bill. Read it!

Contact everyone that you know.

An excellent starting point is your Minister. Church property is typically located on land that is ripe for redevelopment and the church is exempt from property tax. Politicians visualize sale receipts (revenue) from a commercial development after the "blighted" church property is redeveloped.

Advise everyone to contact their State representatives and ask them to support and co-sponsor bill SB91. Attend public meetings and discuss this important issue. Public meetings where your State representatives are in attendance are very important - it is an opportunity to ask them to take a public stand to which they will be held accountable.

1. Alabama Code Section 24-2-2 (1)

For more information, visit: http://www.keepourrights.org

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