- The constitutional amendment is one of the strongest reforms yet, prohibiting “public use” for any transfer of property to a private party and placing the burden to prove public use on the government.
- Statutory reform in 2007 provided some of those protections immediately.
Although the Nevada Legislature was not in session in 2006, the state’s citizens would not be deterred from presenting a strong constitutional amendment protecting private property rights. When the citizen initiative qualified for the ballot, it contained both a prohibition on private-to-private transfers and controversial regulatory takings language. Challenged in court, the “regulatory takings” element was taken off and the measure appeared on the ballot as a pure “public use” issue: “Public use shall not include the direct or indirect transfer of any interest in property taken in an eminent domain proceeding from one private party to another private party. In all eminent domain actions, the government shall have the burden to prove public use.” The amendment passed by a wide margin, but Nevada requires constitutional amendments to be approved in two successive general elections, so the measure appeared again on the 2008 ballot and was approved by voters for the second time.
When the Legislature convened for the 2007 session, it acted quickly to pass statutory reform that turns many of the protections from the citizen initiative into law immediately. Assembly Bill 102 contains the public use definition from the citizen initiative, but with exceptions for blight and relocation of those displaced by highway projects. Unfortunately, AB 102 also differs from the initiative’s five-year buy-back provision, by pushing that time limit to fifteen years and defining “use” so broadly that the very act of planning the project or condemning the property qualifies, effectively abolishing the buy-back provision. Despite these few weaknesses, AB 102 provides significant, immediate protection against eminent domain abuse.
Assembly Joint Resolution 3 proposed the language of AB 102 in a constitutional amendment. The bill passed in 2008 and was required to also be approved again in 2009 before it could appear on the ballot, but failed pass the legislature a second time.
Nevadans can be proud that when the U.S. Supreme Court brought their federal constitutional rights into question, they acted with haste and resolve to ensure that people in their state would remain free to enjoy what rightfully belongs to them.