by Locker Room contributor
In 2009, property rights didn’t fare very well in the NC legislature. The attack on property rights was bipartisan in nature. Below are some of the major property rights bills and how they fared.
Smoking Ban (HB 2)
This bill became law. It passed the Senate 30-18, and the House concurred with the Senate bill by a vote of 62-56. To learn more about why the smoking ban is an attack on property rights, click here.
Yadkin River/Seizure of Alcoa Property (SB 967)
The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of this bill that would allow the taking of an Alcoa hydroelectric plant. The House however voted against its version of the bill. Learn more about this issue here.
Eminent Domain Constitutional Amendment (HB 1268)
This amendment as written was very problematic. It would have expressly allowed the biggest abuse of eminent domain with no constraints: takings based on “blight.” House members tried to amend the bill on the floor so that it fixed this problem–it was a simple fix.
However, they were stopped from even having a vote on the “fix” because a vote was called to send the bill back to committee (thereby likely killing the bill last session). The vote to send the bill back to committee barely passed, 60-56.
A good measure of who supports eminent domain reform would be the vote on whether to send the bill back to committee.
Quick Take Bill/Fuquay-Varina (HB 384)
Most legislators will excuse their vote in favor of this bill based on the notion that it is just a local bill (limited to a specific local jurisdiction) and they are just supporting the bill pushed by the local legislator. This certainly is no excuse when it comes to giving any governmental entity this incredible power–the government can seize your property and take immediate title and possession of your property.
It also is no excuse that some other local governments have this power, therefore Fuquay-Varina also should have this power. Learn more about this bill and the abusive practice of quick takes here.
The bill became law–both chambers passed it easily.
The House passed an annexation reform bill (HB 524) that makes matters even worse than the status quo. Many property rights advocates didn’t want the House to pass the bill. The only legitimate argument in favor of supporting the bill in the House was to keep the bill alive in the short session with the hope that the Senate would fix the bill. Of course, this is highly unlikely, but maybe recent changes in the Senate combined with major grassroots efforts could make it more likely.
As a result of the problems with HB 524, there really is no way to determine whether a legislator supports annexation reform regardless of how they voted. For example, someone easily could have voted against HB 524 because of how bad the bill is.
Without doing a whole analysis of HB 524, let me explain the primary reason why the bill is a disaster besides the minor issue that it doesn’t do anything to help annexation victims (BTW: this is not the perfect being the enemy of the good):
Annexation victims often complain that municipalities annex them even though the municipalities aren’t providing them any services that are of value. HB 524 makes it clear for the first time ever that municipalities are allowed to provide meaningless services, such as duplicated and/or unnnecessary services.
Without HB 524, there’s a good chance the NC Supreme Court, based on its Nolan v. Marvin decision, would clarify that duplication of services and the provision of unnecessary services don’t constitute meaningful and significant services (as required by law).
There’s really no way to see who truly supports annexation reform. Sponsorship is a weak measure because some legislators will sponsor a bill knowing it will fail. However, it is something. There are only two real annexation reform bills (mirror bills): HB 645 and SB 494.
Conservation Easements and Eminent Domain (SB 600)
This bill became law. It required the government to seek alternatives to seizing private property with conservation easements. I can imagine some legislators trying to make this out to be a pro-property rights bill. Read here to learn why those claims would be absurd.