Washington

  • Unfair notice provisions were changed to protect property owners.
  • Significant reform is still needed.

 

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50 State Report Card: Tracking Eminent Domain Reform Legislation since Kelo

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Read: Washington Chapter
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Current Abuses    Bills
     
  House Bill 1458
Sponsored by: State Representative Kevin Van De Wege
Status: Signed into law on April 17, 2007.
     
     
Overview     
     

The Washington Legislature intended to make eminent domain reform a priority of its 2006 session. The governor proposed legislation early in the session and the issue was the subject of significant hearings and debate. Unfortunately, the legislative process ended up polarizing interested parties and, as a result, the legislature did not pass a single eminent domain reform bill.

In 2007, House Bill 1458 was filed in response to Washington Supreme Court decisions holding that state and local governments could provide notice, on an obscure government website, of the public meeting where a final decision to condemn property would be made. Public meetings are vitally important because it is the sole opportunity a property owner has to provide evidence that his or her property is not necessary for the government’s purported public use.

At the request of the governor and attorney general, HB 1458 was introduced with 54 co-sponsors and passed both houses of the Washington State Legislature by unanimous votes. The new law requires that a condemning authority in Washington notify affected property owners, by certified mail, at least 15 days prior to the public meeting at which a final decision on condemnation will be made.

Washington still has significant eminent domain reform to accomplish, but HB 1458 is a good first step and provides an immediate change to formerly unjust notice standards. Reform of other eminent domain laws is expected to remain on the agenda for next year’s legislature and Attorney General McKenna announced that he would create a task force to thoroughly review Washington’s eminent domain laws and recommend any necessary changes to the 2008 legislature.