Voter approval for certain eminent domain uses proposed

Members of the Judiciary Committee heard testimony Jan. 22 on a bill that could potentially limit the use of eminent domain in Nebraska.

Sen. Tom Brewer
Sen. Tom Brewer

Under LB823, sponsored by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, voter approval of eminent domain use would be required for certain public projects.

Brewer said numerous Nebraskans risk losing their private land because an out-of-state consortium has ordered the construction of a new transmission line through the Sandhills.

“When the Legislature gave public power the right to seize private property and exercise the use of eminent domain, no one in this [legislative body] could have imagined a day when Nebraskans had their property taken from them on behalf of an out-of-state third party,” he said.

The bill would require that a special election be held before eminent domain could be exercised by a city or other political subdivision on behalf of an out-of-state third party for purposes of transmission lines for electric power.

Shelley Sahling-Zart, representing the Nebraska Power Association, opposed the bill. She said it would set a bad precedent for future public projects.

“The reality is that most [utilities] rarely use eminent domain,” she said. “Eminent domain is always a tool of last resort, but it is an important tool.”

No one testified in support of LB823 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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