The eminent domain legislation sponsored by the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) died on the floor of the Assembly this week when Republicans voted against the measure.

Although the sponsors of ACA 8 and its author, Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), made a late change to add protections for houses of worship, Republicans refused to budge. Because the measure was a constitutional amendment, it needed a two-thirds vote in the Legislature (meaning some GOP members in both houses) before going on the ballot next year.

With the legislative year now finished (business officially ended a little after 3 a.m. on Wednesday, September 12) the eminent domain fight shifts entirely to two initiatives — one sponsored by ACA 8's backers, and a more far-reaching proposal sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation and apartment owners. Both measures are currently in the signature-gathering phase.

Essentially, ACA 8 would have prohibited the acquisition via eminent domain of owner-occupied homes or churches for economic development purposes. The measure, along with its failed companion AB 887, also would have provided new eminent domain protections for businesses with 25 or fewer employees. The initiative has similar protections for homeowners, but it does not speak to churches or small businesses.

Republican lawmakers said ACA 8 did not go far enough. They appear to favor the Jarvis initiative, which would block all use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. The initiative would also prohibit rent control.

"The only constituency that would have any interest in financing the League's measure are those who benefit from existing practices of eminent domain abuse," HJTA President Jon Coupal said in a written statement issued Thursday. "Simply put, the League's ballot measure was drafted by redevelopment interests for those who profit from the status quo."

Meanwhile, CRA Executive Director John Shirey wrote in a legislative update that the organization is considering whether to continue its current signature-gathering effort and is weighing a formal campaign against the Jarvis initiative.

That lawmakers failed to act on eminent domain was hardly a surprise. The consensus among observers, lobbyists and Capitol insiders is that 2007 has been one of the least productive years in modern times for the Legislature. Check out Sacramento Bee columnist Steve Wiegand's take on the session here:

The eminent domain bills could return in January, but nobody expects them to go anywhere. With voting scheduled in February, June and November, 2008 is likely to be known as the "year of the election."

- Paul Shigley