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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

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For Immediate Release: March 15, 2006

   Sen. Charles Laster

Senate Passes Bipartisan Eminent Domain Bill

A bipartisan bill to protect property owners from abuses of government’s power of eminent domain was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

The Oklahoma Property Owners Protection Act would prohibit any public entity from seizing private property solely for the purpose of economic development, and would require municipalities to provide relocation assistance for those who are forced to move by an eminent domain proceeding.

Senate Bill 1772 is a collaborative effort by Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, who chaired the Senate’s interim study on the issue of eminent domain, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, who chaired an Ad Hoc Task Force on eminent domain which included both legislators and private citizens. Laster also thanked Sen. Daisy Lawler, D-Comanche, and Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, for their input on the bill.

Concerns over the issue of eminent domain came to light last summer, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruled in Kelo v. New London, that a city in Connecticut could seize private property that was not blighted to make way for a private development. The Kelo ruling appeared to expand state and local governments’ power of eminent domain to apply not only to public projects like roads or schools, but to private projects that could bring more jobs and tax dollars to the area.

“In view of the Kelo ruling, we needed to update our laws in Oklahoma to clarify which projects do not meet the traditionally accepted definition of ‘public use,’ said Laster. “Oklahomans shouldn’t have to worry that their land will be taken simply because someone with more money wants it.”

Jolley said his task force and Laster’s committee have worked for months with property owners and municipal governments to craft legislation that would protect Oklahomans’ property rights without creating unintended negative consequences for municipalities that occasionally need to use their powers of eminent domain for legitimately public uses.

“When used properly, eminent domain can benefit the community,” said Jolley, noting that eminent domain proceedings were used to create the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, among other high-profile projects in the state. “The courts have left it up to the states to decide where to draw the line on public uses, and that’s what the Oklahoma Property Owners Protection Act does.”

SB 1772 next heads to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

For more information contact:
Senator Laster's Office - (405) 521-5539

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