Ballot loaded with amendments - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ballot loaded with amendments

October 20, 2006

Albany -- When you go to the polls next month, you won't just vote for people.  Three amendments to the state constitution and five statewide referenda will be on the ballot.   

The issue many people are most concerned about is eminent domain. Supporters of a constitutional amendment say it will protect your property rights. Many property owners are worried the government has too much power to take their land, especially after a U. S. Supreme Court decision last year that gave governments almost unlimited eminent domain power.  

Georgia law says "The governing authority of each county and of each municipality may exercise the power of eminent domain for any public purpose."

A proposed constitutional amendment would limit the definition of public purpose to facilities such as roads, schools, or government buildings.

Albany's State Senator Michael Meyer von Bremen says this amendment protects private property so he encourages voters to support it. "You won't have a large business, national chain, or something like that come in and somehow finagle laws to condemn something that's in a neighborhood's backyard to put up their shopping center," said Meyer von Bremen.  

If the amendment is passed it would help residential property owners. It adds more protection from eminent domain for public use reasons. It limits the definition of public use to exclude a company from coming in, taking the land, and developing into a store, office, or other private business.

"They've narrowed down what their definition of a private use so you just can do it for some developer, or private development, and declare it a private use," said Meyer von Bremen.

 The amendment would also restrict which entities would have eminent domain power.  For instance, as a public hospital, Phoebe Putney has used eminent domain to seize property. 

Under the new proposal, only elected officials would have that power.  "Private entities that tried to do that and tried to declare that it was a private use, now that won't happen," said Meyer von Bremen.

It's up to voters come November. Choose yes for more restrictions on government seizure of your property, or no to keep Georgia's law as is.  

Also on the ballot is a constitutional amendment to protect hunting and fishing rights.  And one to allow the state to share proceeds of specialty license plates with the groups the plates promote.

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