Panel OKs eminent domain bill

CARSON CITY — The Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that restricts eminent domain powers after panel members were reassured that it wouldn’t have a harmful financial effect on local governments in Nevada.

Assembly Bill 102 is a companion measure to a proposed constitutional amendment that limits eminent domain, but it would take effect as early as October, while the constitutional change must pass the next legislative session and then go to a vote of the people.

Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said his committee couldn’t take any chances, so he wanted to hear from those affected by the bill.

Nicolas Anthony, representing Reno, and Sabra Smith-Newby, representing Clark County, testified that the bill would not have an adverse fiscal impact.

Arberry then warned them not to show up asking for help from the lawmaker’s Interim Finance Committee, which handles fiscal emergencies between Nevada’s every-other-year legislative sessions.

“Just making sure that you won’t be coming to Interim Finance asking, because we make this mandate here, that we have to now pay,” Arberry said.

Eminent domain is the power allotted to governments by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Assembly Bill 102 defines “just compensation” as fitting the “highest and best” use of the land, but it is not as restrictive as Question 2, a proposed constitutional change that received an initial endorsement from voters this past fall.

Question 2 — called the People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land, or PISTOL, by its supporters — was seen by critics as being too broad and producing potential costs that would be too high for legitimate public works projects .

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, who has led the effort on Assembly Bill 102, said, “It’s a better solution to our transportation concerns than was in Question 2 … that may have a larger, greater impact on transportation.”

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