H.B. 3 would add eminent domain protections to Constitution

Just compensation, jury trial among added constitutional protections for private property rights

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Representative Chuck McGrady

RALEIGH — An eminent domain bill that saw limited action in previous legislative sessions is moving through the N.C. General Assembly, having passed the N.C. House of Representatives on Thursday. H.B. 3 is an act to amend the constitution to prohibit the condemnation of private property except for public use, restricting the abuse of eminent domain.”It protects property rights, it insures jury trial and just compensations are paid and I’d like to see that in our constitution,” said Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) a primary sponsor of the bill.Article I of the N.C. Constitution, Sec. 38 would be amended to read:”Private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use. Just compensation shall be paid and shall be determined by a jury at the request of any party.”If the bill passes the N.C. Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, the amendment would be put to North Carolina voters November 6, 2018 asking if they are “For” or “Against” adding the language.”Most of the people in this room have voted on this thing numerous times and they always had broad bipartisan support,” said McGrady on the House floor Thursday. “I’m hoping we’ll be a little more successful in getting the senate to move on the bill.”The issue came into sharper focus in 2005 when the United States Supreme Court decided in Kelo v. City of New London that the use of eminent domain to transfer property from one private owner to another private owner for economic development qualified as a “public use” in a landmark 5-4 decision. According to McGrady, having the right to a jury trial enshrined via constitutional amendment would protect citizens from the term “public use” being defined to broadly.The bill received broad support from the chamber, but a few House Democrats broke from their caucus in voting against the measure. One such vote came from House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) who thinks the amendment is unnecessary.”I have consistently voted against amending our state constitution on a variety of matters,” said Jackson. “In my opinion, our state law already reflects this policy and is adequate to prevent things like what happened in the Kelo case from happening in NC. I don’t disagree at all with the policy or the law, only the need to have it enshrined in our state constitution.”The has now been sent to the N.C. Senate for consideration.