Raleigh, N.C. — State and local governments would not be able to condemn land for economic development purposes under a bill that cleared the House Judiciary B Committee Wednesday.
The bill contains both legislative language and a constitutional amendment that limits the use of eminent domain powers, under which governments can force landowners to sell their property.
"When you take someone's property, it's the only time the government sues somebody without alleging they did anything wrong," said Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, who has tried to get a similar measure passed in five prior legislative sessions.
In the 2011-12 session, House lawmakers passed the eminent domain bill, but it stalled in the Senate.
During committee discussion, the bill was not controversial. Democrats, including Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said they would back the bill.
Committee members had a short discussion over how the measure might affect natural gas drilling. Stam said that, if it does affect the practice of using horizontal drilling to explore for natural gas, it would mainly limit the ability of governments to access land, not increase it.
In one example, Stam said, a local government might be able to use eminent domain to build a road to a hydraulic fracturing drilling site, but under this bill, a government would not be able to condemn property so it could be drilled.
The measure next goes to the House floor.