Sabal Trail can’t just assert public use for its pipeline: it has to prove it, according to the Georgia Constitution.
The Constitutional Amendment referred to by the landowners Attorney Jonathan P. Waters at yesterday’s eminent domain hearing in Leesburg, GA passed 7 November 2006 by 1,622,403 to 338,876, or 82.7% to 17.3%. Here’s then-Governor Sonny Perdue’s press release when he signed the law to put it on the ballot, which includes this sentence:
Public benefit from economic development shall not constitute a public use.
So it would appear vague claims of tax revenue or illusory jobs are not enough, Sabal Trail.
Here’s the “neutral summary and explanation” required by Georgia state law:
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to require that the condemnation of property for redevelopment purposes must be approved by vote of the elected governing authority of the county or city in which the property is located; to restrict the use of eminent domain for redevelopment purposes to the elimination of harm; to provide that the use of eminent domain by counties and municipalities shall be subject to limitation by general law; to prohibit the use of eminent domain by certain nonelected local authorities; to provide for submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.
This proposal provides several limitations with respect to the exercise of the power of eminent domain and the taking of private property for public purposes. The proposal provides that any taking of private property for redevelopment purposes must be approved by vote of the appropriate elected city or county governing authority. The proposal provides that any taking of private property for redevelopment purposes must be for a public use as defined by general state law. The proposal provides that the exercise of eminent domain by cities and counties can be restricted by general state law and that any exercise of eminent domain by a nonelected housing or development authority must be approved by vote of the appropriate elected city or county governing authority.
The text of the amendment is in 2005-2006 Regular Session – HB 1313 Eminent domain; comprehensive revision of provisions; provide, which contains this interesting sentence added to O.C.G.A. 22-1-2(a):
Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, neither this state nor any political subdivision thereof nor any other condemning authority shall use eminent domain unless it is for public use. Public use is a matter of law to be determined by the court and the condemnor bears the burden of proof.
I haven’t seen any proof; have you?