The House Transportation and Defense Committee has unanimously approved Senate Bill 1309 that would provide additional protection to persons whose property is either seized or condemned under current eminent domain laws. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on March 5.
“This is an effort that I’ve been working on for the last two legislative sessions,” Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, commented in presenting the bill to the committee. Noting that the bill had broad support from a wide array of organizations including several of the state’s highway districts and the Idaho Farm Bureau, he added, “we believe this bill is about essential fairness to property owners.”
The intent the bill is to ensure that in cases where government agencies change their plans in the process of acquiring or augmenting a piece of private property under the eminent domain laws after they’ve already begun the acquisition process, the property owner would have the ability to recoup the extra costs that he might incur with those changes, should there be any.
According to Winder, such costs to property owners may involve increased expenses for legal, engineering and administrative fees.
“In the past, the property owner kind of got the short end of the stick while government agencies go about doing what they do,” Winder explained. “Early on the Idaho Transportation Department had some disagreements with some of the language in the bill and so did some of the highway districts, but we worked out all those details.”
Steve Price, an attorney with the Ada County Highway District, earlier this month confirmed his association’s agreement with Winder. “We are pleased to have worked with Sen. Winder on this,” Price said. “We believe this legislation is fair to taxpayers and to private property owners, both.”
“This is truly a piece of consensus legislation,” said Heather Cunningham, a private practice attorney in Boise who often represents property owners in eminent domain disputes. “I urge your approval of this bill.”
“I’ve read the bill and I don’t think there’s anything to disagree with here,” noted Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, a member of the committee.
“A lot of good people worked diligently on this to get it right,” Winder told IdahoReporter.com after the committee hearing. “We made some serious amendments and we have a bill that is fair for everybody.”
“I’ve seen scenarios in which government agencies drag things out so long that a property owner is damaged and at some point it’s too late for them to be compensated fairly,” Cunningham told IdahoReporter.com. “This bill can really help the plight of property owners.”