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    State Senate Judiciary Committee Blocks Proposed Constitutional Amendment (SCA 15, McClintock) For Homeowner Protective Constitutional Amendment Re Eminent Domain; "League of CA Cities" Urges Measure's Defeat; Witnesses Support Measure & Blast Redevelopment; Committee Votes To Advance "Gut & Amend" Bill With Two-Year Moratorium On Some Eminent Domain While "Studying" Issue

    (August 31, 2005, initial post) -- Sparked by a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lets local government use eminent domain to take homes and businesses in the name of promoting economic progress, the State Senate Judiciary Committee on August 30 voted 2-3 to block submission to CA voters of a proposed constitutional amendment (SCA 15, McClintock) that would enact property owner protections as a matter of state law.

    On a party-line vote -- three Democrats opposed, two Democrats (including Committee chair Joe Dunn) abstaining, and two Republicans in favor), the Committee's opposition blocks action on the measure.

    Instead, the Committee voted 3-2 (reverse vote) to advance a "gut and amend" bill (which avoids the normal hearing process by substituting entirely new legislative text) offered by Assemblyman Gene Mullin (D., South San Francisco) that would put a two-year moratorium on some eminent domain while "studying" the issue. The bill (AB 1162) doesn't require voter approval.

    Some speakers voiced concern that creating an eminent domain moratorium effective Jan. 1, 2006 would invite bodies to hasten eminent domain now to beat the deadline, but the Committee advanced the bill saying these and other matters could be worked out with the author later.

    The "League of CA Cities," an advocacy group in which LB City Hall is a member and supports with dues, registrations and the like using taxpayer money) submitted an August 22 letter to the Committee urging defeat of McClintock's proposed constitutional amendment (SCA 15) calling it "unnecessary" because CA's eminent domain law "provides several important checks and balances designed to assure a fair process, including (to name a few) the requirements that government agencies make fair offers, provide due process, and pay relocation expenses."

    The League's letter said the proposed SCA 15 fails "to appreciate the important role that eminent domain is playing in our communities. Many cities are actively engaged in redevelopment activities to clean slums, contaminated properties and otherwise improve blighted areas within their communities."

    As previously noted by, the "League of CA Cities" joined in the "Friend of the Court" brief filed by the "National League of Cities" (another advocacy group in which LB City Hall is a member) that specifically urged the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against the interests of the homeowners in the eminent domain case. The "U.S. Conference of Mayors," an advocacy group in which LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill has a leadership post, holds the position on the issue and applauded the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling.

    The LB City Council has not debated, discussed or taken an explicit position on the proposed homeowner-protective constitutional amendment on eminent domain, either in the Council's state legislation committee (chair, Baker; members Richardson and O'Donnell) or at the full Council level.

    Two members of the State Senate Judiciary Committee echoed the views of the "League of CA Cities" and Committee staff. At the outset of the hearing, State Senators Martha Escutia (D., Norwalk) and Shiela Kuehl (D., Santa Monica) questioned whether legislation was needed at all.

    However Assemblyman Mullin, noting that he'd been in local government before coming to Sacramento, repeatedly said that he felt the issue required some type of legislative response, a "time out" he called it, apparently due to the intensity of local feelings on the subject.

    State Senator Gil Cedillo (D., Santa Ana) used the term "hysteria" in likening support for Sen. McClintock's measure to opposition to Sen. Cedillo's bill to grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.

    Also speaking in opposition to SCA 15 was John Shirey, former LB Assistant City Manager, now President of the CA Redevelopment Association, an advocacy group whose members include the LB Redevelopment Agency. A representative of the Western Center for Law & Poverty also opposed Sen. McClintock's protective measure.

    Among those testifying in support of SCA 15 was a businessman whose family business of over half a century was taken by Oakland City Hall using eminent domain; a San Diego lawyer who blasted CA Redevelopment practices as unjust and counter-productive; OC County Supervisor (and former Fullerton City Councilman and activist) Chris Norby who authored Redevelopment: The Unknown Government who reiterated his criticisms of Redevelopment and an Afghan immigrant who said he'd fought Soviet rule and couldn't believe that in America, government could simply take one's property in ways currently allowed. Other speakers wore tee-shirts saying "Keep Your Hands Off My Home."

    Committee chair Dunn took the "gut and amend" measure, followed by an alternative constitutional amendment (SCA 12, by Sens. Tom Torlakson and Christine Kehoe, both Democrats) which offers fewer property owner protections than SCA 15 before hearing Sen. McClintock's measure...which came up roughly two hours into the proceeding.

    When Sen. McClintock got the floor, he argued that his measure was necessary to protect the rights of CA homeowners and business property owners...and simultaneously attacked the premises of its opponents. plans to post the text of Sen. McClintock's presentation and extended excerpts in writing or via audio coverage shortly. Check back with this page; click reload or refresh on your browser for updated text.

    When it appeared the "gut and amend" bill would advance, proponents of the "alternative" constitutional amendment didn't press for a vote on their measure.

    The "gut and amend" measure now advances to the Senate floor.

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