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Small Businesses Hoping for Protection from Eminent Domain

By Daniel Cherry | Published 13 Sep 2011 07:48pm | comments

In the upcoming November election voters will decide whether to vastly restrict the use of eminent domain in Mississippi. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how small businesses are hoping citizens will vote yes on Initiative 31.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled initiative 31 can appear on the November ballot following a lawsuit seeking to block it from coming to a vote. Ed Hutchinson owns the Emporium on the downtown square in Canton. He says he'd like to see more restrictions placed on eminent domain

"I've never had them come to me and say, 'Hey I'm going to approve land for you so you can make money with it.' It doesn't happen for a small business owner, and I just don't think it's fair when the government picks winners and losers like that."

Some small businesses are pushing the initiative because they also want more protection from having their property taken for development. Ron Aldridge is the director of the state branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He says small operations often have a role in building up areas, making them valuable locations for bigger businesses.

"They want to say,'Let's take that person's property, and let me produce that revenue.' That's just wrong to do that to that person who has endured the hardships of those tough times and continued to help that community, and now you want somebody bigger to take that piece of property."

Those in charge of attracting big business are hoping voters will shoot Initiative 31 down. Mississippi Development Authority Director, Leland Speed says the last thing the state needs to do is handcuff itself from future development.

"This is going to be a very costly thing for the people of Mississippi. We have over 10% unemployment. We need jobs. We need good paying jobs in Mississippi. We're getting them. This is going to be a major, major handicap and may very well just knock us out of the running for mega projects like Toyota and Nissan."

If voters approve the initiative it means governments can take a person's property but they can't give it to a business for a minimum of ten years.

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