Sen. Ruth Whitaker and Rep. Rick Green, both Republicans, have scheduled a news conference at the Capitol Thursday morning to unveil legislation for 2007 to curb eminent domain powers. They are not releasing text yet, but Green says it will include attorney fees for people who successfully challenge offers for condemned property in court and will require approval of condemnations by elected government bodies. It will limit condemnations for retail developments and prevent condemnation of farmland, Green said. It doesn’t directly address the condemnation power in Tax Increment Finance legislation — which clearly allowed condemnation for private projects — but it sounds like it could create some condemnation obstacles for redevelopment projects, all generally done for private entities.
Green insists the bill has been in the work for months as a response to a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling and is not a partisan project to enhance the campaign of Asa Hutchinson, the Republican gubernatorial candidate. Hutchinson has been urging legislative action on the issue. Green said he and Whitaker had resisted an invitation to make the bill part of the Republican Party platform. “This is an Arkansas property owners’ bill. It is not a political bill,” Green said. “We hope it will have bipartisan support.” He said some Democrats had already said they’d support it.