- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

State ballot measures to limit use of eminent domain, to bar same-sex “marriage” and to decide the fate of legislation passed in South Dakota outlawing nearly all abortions will be among those facing voters on Election Day, Nov. 7.

“The biggest issue this year is definitely property rights and land use,” and voters in at least 11 states will consider measures that would bar governments from taking private property for another private use, said Jennie Drage Bowser, a policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which tracks ballot questions across the country.

The 11 states where voters will decide on property-rights measures are Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon and South Carolina, said Larry Morandi, NCSL’s group director for environment, energy and transportation.

In a primary election Sept. 30, voters in a 12th state, Louisiana, approved a change in the state constitution that prohibits government from expanding eminent-domain power for economic development.

Mr. Morandi said four other states are seeking to prevent governments from engaging in a practice known as “regulatory taking,” which restricts a landowner’s ability to develop his property. The measures would require compensation for the loss of property value caused by such restrictions.

Mr. Morandi said three states — Arizona, California and Idaho — are seeking to combine limitations on regulatory taking with those on eminent domain. A measure in Washington state seeks only to restrict use of regulatory taking of property. Mr. Morandi said such cases typically involve land that adjoins wetlands or other environmentally sensitive tracts, and governments have a history of not paying when they seek to prevent development of property.

These ballot measures are repercussions from the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2005 ruling that governments’ taking of private property for private economic-development projects qualifies as a “public use” under the Constitution. That ruling also said that states could set their own restrictions on using the power of eminent domain, and many have followed suit.

In the 2004 general election, ballot measures were dominated by efforts to prohibit same-sex “marriage.” Twenty states have approved constitutional amendments banning such “marriages,” and voters in eight more states — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin — will consider them on Nov. 7.

Colorado voters also will consider a rival ballot measure that would legalize “domestic partnerships” or civil unions between same-sex couples, even if the marriage amendment passes.

Amendment 44 on the Colorado ballot would legalize the possession and use of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by people 21 or older, as long as it does not occur in public. Question 7 on the Nevada ballot would allow people 21 or older to purchase, possess, use and transport up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

Among proposals to be considered on Election Day:

• A Colorado measure would set term limits for state Supreme Court justices and state appellate court judges.

• An initiative in Oregon would limit terms of state representatives to six years and of state senators to eight years and cut off legislative service after 14 years.

• Proposition 103 on the Arizona ballot would make English that state’s official language.

• Three states — Maine, Nebraska and Oregon — will have ballot measures that would cap how much revenue the state is allowed to keep. The Maine proposal, for instance, would limit growth in state spending to increases in population and inflation and would require that 80 percent of the excess paid to the General Fund and Highway Fund budgets go toward a tax-relief fund.

• A measure on the Florida ballot would require 60 percent voter support for passage of state constitutional amendments. Currently, amendments can pass with simple majorities, Ms. Bowser said.

At least 204 measures will be on the ballots of 39 states, Ms. Bowser said, making this a “gigantic” year in terms of ballot measures.


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