Topeka — Senators approved a bill Tuesday to vaccinate Kansans against being forced to sell their property, as the House prepared to consider even stronger medicine.
The Senate's 27-13 vote sent to the House a measure allowing only six instances in which the state or local governments could force a sale so property can be turned over to another individual or company. State law now says forced sales are presumed to promote "public use" of the property.
Senators rejected a compromise drafted by agriculture groups, which want to protect property rights, and chambers of commerce and the League of Kansas Municipalities, which question whether new restrictions on "taking" property are necessary.
Later this week, House members expect to consider going even further than the Senate did to side with property owners, by proposing an amendment to the Kansas Constitution.
"Public opinion does appear to be overwhelmingly one way, once you get past the people who are in the business of making money off of taking other people's property without proper compensation," said Rep. John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee, which endorsed a proposed amendment Monday.
How they voted
The Senate voted 27-13 Tuesday to approve a bill strengthening the rights of property owners. Senators voting for the bill included Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.
While some senators support amending the constitution, others are skeptical of greatly limiting the state, cities and counties as they pursue economic development projects. Forced land sales preceded construction of a mall in downtown Manhattan, a Target Corp. distribution center south of Topeka and Kansas Speedway and related retail development in Wyandotte County.
"The use of eminent domain is critical to economic development in this state," said Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood.
The Legislature's debate is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that said it is constitutional for states to allow the taking of property for economic development. At least 30 states have considered proposals to limit the practice.