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McGrady files bill to curb land condemnation

State Rep. Chuck McGrady introduced legislation to amend the North Carolina Constitution to limit government's use of eminent domain to take private property.

House Bill 8 would specifically prohibit condemnation of private property except for a public use and provide for the payment of just compensation with right of trial by jury in all condemnation cases.

McGrady, a Republican from Hendersonville, co-sponsored a similar bill last session. It passed the House with bipartisan support, but was never taken up by the Senate. This session, McGrady is the lead sponsor of the legislation and has already begun to work on getting it heard in the Senate after it passes the House.

"I've talked to Senate leadership, including Senator Apodaca (R-Henderson), and I'm expecting that the Senate will take up the bill this session if the House once again passes it with bipartisan support," said the second-term representative, who is also a lawyer.

McGrady's bill is directed at keeping North Carolina law as it presently is. It is a direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, Conn., a case in 2005 that led the court to liberalize the test for when a government can take a person's private property. Until the Kelo decision, a government couldn't force the sale of property to the government unless it was for a "public use." After the Kelo decision, a government could force the sale of property to the government if it was deeded for a "public purpose" or a "public benefit."

"In Kelo, the U.S. Supreme Court found it was constitutional for a government to take a lady's home where she had lived her entire life, make her sell it, and then for the local government to sell it to developers so they could make more money and the town could get more taxes," McGrady said in a news release. "Fortunately, in Kelo, the U.S. Supreme Court also said the States were free to restrict eminent domain more than that, and that is precisely what my legislation proposes to do. If approved by the voters, state and local governments could only take land that is needed for a public use. They wouldn't be able to seize land where they could only show some public purpose or public benefit." McGrady's bill would put the constitutional amendment on the General Election ballot in November 2014.

McGrady said he expects the Eminent Domain bill to receive broad bipartisan support. Among its its primary cosponsors are Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam (R-Wake) and a Democratic legislator, Ken Goodman (D- Richmond).