Georgia Senate Approves State Moratorium on Eminent Domain Abuse

PRESS RELEASE: February 3, 2006

John Kramer
Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320

Arlington, Va.—This morning, the Georgia Senate passed a 120-day moratorium on all condemnations for private development under the state’s redevelopment laws.  The Senate’s action was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s now infamous decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which removed all federal constitutional protections against the use of eminent domain for private gain.  The moratorium, introduced by State Senator Jeff Chapman, passed the Senate by a vote of 52 to 0.

If approved by the House and signed by the Governor, the moratorium will provide temporary protection to Georgians from the abuse of eminent domain for private development until the legislature can enact permanent reforms. 

Georgians are particularly vulnerable to eminent domain abuse because the state’s redevelopment laws allow cities to designate practically any neighborhood in the state as “blighted,” and thus subject to condemnation for private development.  Furthermore, Georgia’s constitution specifically allows “redevelopment” condemnations for private use.  Thus, both statutory and constitutional changes are needed in order to fully protect Georgia home and business owners.

“The Senate took an important first step today on the road to eminent domain reform,” said Bert Gall, a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represented Susette Kelo and her neighbors before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “The House should move swiftly to approve the moratorium, and the Governor should sign it.  Then, the legislature should do everything in its power to make sure that eminent domain is never again used for private development in Georgia.”

In the wake of the Kelo decision, Alabama and Texas passed initial reforms of their eminent domain laws, curbing the ability of municipalities to take homes and businesses for private profit, and 43 state legislatures have introduced eminent domain reforms.  The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would strip federal funding from municipalities that engage in eminent domain abuse, and the U.S. Senate is expected to take up the issue in the coming months.