All but six of Nevada’s 63 lawmakers have signed on to a compromise constitutional amendment to restrict the eminent domain powers of government but still allow for the taking of land for public works such as transportation projects.
Two nearly identical Assembly bills and one Senate bill also are moving forward to mirror in state law the language in the proposed constitutional amendment. A law change could take effect by October, while a constitutional change would take three years to complete.
Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury argued for the constitutional change, AJR3, on Thursday, saying he worked with several lawmakers, transportation departments, and eminent domain lawyers Kermitt Waters and Don Chairez to come up with a compromise that satisfied everyone.
“Each of our concerns has been addressed in reasonable ways, while each of the basic property-rights protections sought by Don and Kermitt and other associates have been preserved,” Woodbury told the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Question 2, called the People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land or PISTOL by its supporters, including Waters, was seen by critics as being too broad and producing potential costs for legitimate public works projects that would be too high.
Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, testified for AB102, which he said should match the language of the compromise constitutional amendment so both measures could move forward simultaneously. A measure being debated by the Senate, SB85, proposes identical language.
Freshman Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, testified for AB129, which is similar to AB102, but also provides that defendants who prevail in eminent domain lawsuits can be compensated for their legal fees. The measure could conflict with AJR3, which says that parties in an eminent domain dispute would pay their own fees.
Ohrenschall said the measure would encourage people to stand up to public agencies trying to take their land, which he called a “formidable opponents.”
“Many citizens of limited financial resources will prefer to walk away from their homes because they cannot afford the legal fees and costs to, in effect, ’fight city hall,”’ Ohrenschall said, adding, “The government agency is well-funded, employs lawyers on staff and has financial and other resources that dwarf the average citizen’s.”
Ohrenschall also is sponsoring a separate constitutional amendment, AJR2, that would prohibit the seizure of property for any private use.
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