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July 1, 2022

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Benton’s measure on eminent domain passes in Senate

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

The state Senate on Monday approved a bill that would prevent property from being seized for public use and then transferred to an agency of another state — taking square aim at a controversial agreement signed by C-Tran and TriMet last year.

Senate Bill 6125, introduced by state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, cleared the Senate on a mostly partisan 25-23 vote. It now heads to the House.

The bill reads in its entirety: “No private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use that is to be transferred for use or possession by a governmental agency of another state. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern.”

Last fall, C-Tran leaders approved a contract with TriMet that spells out how the two agencies would operate light rail in Vancouver as part of the Columbia River Crossing. A key clause of that deal allows C-Tran’s eminent domain authority to be used for TriMet to take property along the light rail line should the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement materialize.

“Washington property owners shouldn’t be forced to defend their property rights against a state, locality or transit authority that they have no voice in choosing,” Benton said in a released statement. “Senate Bill 6125 is about correcting a basic issue of fairness. The idea that citizens of one state would have to defend themselves against an eminent-domain action initiated by another state would violate due process and basic concepts of state sovereignty.”

Among those testifying against the bill in committee was C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm.

It’s unclear whether the bill will go anywhere in the Democratic-led House. Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, made his opposition clear in a Facebook comment posted to a Columbian article about the bill in January.

“If it does make it to the House,” Moeller said, “I will kill it.”

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

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