The Clarion-Ledger Editorial, 2/10/9

Misplaced political hysteria over a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that broadened the uses for which a government entity can take property for public use has a strange coalition working feverishly to neuter Mississippi’s reasonable, necessary eminent domain laws.

Eminent domain recognizes that some “taking” of property is for the public good. Governments have traditionally used that authority to build roads, reservoirs and other public projects. The U.S. Constitution says governments cannot take private property for public use without “just compensation” and that concept remains intact.

The judicial process remains a check-and-balance to ensure that private property owners are protected.

Since 2005, such legislation has died in conference committee. But this session, House Bill 803 – legislation that would prohibit the use of eminent domain laws for certain economic development purposes – passed the House 119 to 3 with bipartisan support.

House Concurrent Resolution 33 is also still alive, which is a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide that private property in Mississippi could never be taken for private economic development purposes.

Mississippi can and should protect small property owners. But it can do so in a manner that doesn’t take the state out of the running for major economic development project. HB 803 effectively would remove that authority.