Rep. Larry Pittman
Rep. Larry Pittman

The proposed eminent domain amendment to the N.C. Constitution cleared its final hurdle in the state House Tuesday, passing that chamber by a 113-5 vote.

If approved by the Senate and ratified by the voters, the amendment would add the following two sentences to the N.C. Constitution’s Declaration of Rights:

“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.”

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, tried to add another sentence to specify that property could not be taken for private economic development, but could muster only 10 votes for his proposal.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake, two of the sponsors of the bill, said that Pittman’s proposal was unnecessary.

“It’s not here because it’s not necessary,” Stam said. “If it’s for private development, then by definition it’s not for public use.”

Pittman disagreed. “I feel that it leaves a little bit lacking because it does not leave clear enough for our courts what our intent is,” Pittman said.

The proposed change to the N.C. Constitution is in response to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that allowed a Connecticut town to condemn private property for private economic development.

The bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain. Similar proposals have passed the House during the last three General Assembly sessions, only to die in the Senate.

If it does gain Senate approval, it would be placed on the ballot on May 3, 2016, for ratification.