Reading legislative bills is not fun. It's often confusing. But if we hope to effect change we must participate in the process and get informed. Please follow with us as we investigate:
Below is an image of what the Oklahoma Legislative website looks like. We hope you take the time to bounce around and familiarize yourself with what each tab and link does. Each provides a slightly different view of the life of a bill.
The House bill or Senate bill designation will let you know which legislative branch originated the bill. When you visit the live website we encourage you to click on the link (circled above) of the specific HB/SB. Doing so will take you to a Microsoft Word version of the bill. Often amended, new, or reworded text will be underlined. For existing statues and laws, you may have to scroll down pages just to find the underlined portions. Often there are many underlined portions. The Versions and Votes tabs will also give you detailed information on wording changes, and who supported or opposed the bill.
The truth is that people who lose their property to eminent domain proceedings are almost never made whole. With eminent domain, the property owner can’t say “no” and usually must settle for much less than he or she would have bargained for in a voluntary setting.
One law professor who has written extensively about the problem of inadequate compensation for people who’ve been forced to sell under eminent domain is Gideon Kanner. In his article “UnEqual Justice under Law: The Invidiously Disparate Treatment of American Property Owners in Taking Cases” he writes: “The true standard of compensation is not indemnity, but rather fair market value so artfully defined as to exclude factors that sellers and buyers in voluntary transactions would consider, and that the government need only pay for what it acquires, not for what the owner has lost.”
Those losses include business goodwill, relocation expenses and the emotional damage of having to leave a community where one may have strong ties. In the government’s reasoning, people are expected to suffer such losses as part of the price of being a citizen. As the Supreme Court stated in the 1949 takings case Kimball Laundry v. U.S., “In view of the liability of all property to condemnation for the common good, loss to the owner of non-transferable values…is properly treated as part of the burden of common citizenship.” That 'tough luck, property owner' mindset still prevails.
Far from “getting a fortune” or even two or three times the market value of their property, most owners are left substantially worse off after their unwanted encounter with condemning government agencies. Few if any of them are content to shrug off the losses as their part of the “burden of common citizenship.”
Judges, and especially the justices of the Supreme Court, will have to stop ruling that merely because an individual is paid an amount deemed “fair market value,” the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of “just compensation” has been satisfied.
What does all this mean for Oklahomans suffering under the regime of Oklahoma Turnpike Authority? In recent OTA public meetings, Secretary of Transportation Ridley artfully dodged answering questions about homeowners receiving the 'best offer they'll ever get' from OTA. Watch video at mark 11:30. Ridley never answered the question about valuation of property taken.
If ALL the homeowners in the path went to court, they could potentially raise the price to such exorbitant amounts that OTA might be priced out of this project. OTA has a set amount they can spend. Residents wishing to coordinate legal action should start by seeking reputable legal council, preferably lawyers who have tried and won class action eminent domain cases. Due to OTA forethought, many in-state legal representatives that specialize in eminent domain have already been engaged by OTA, thereby causing a conflict of interest when homeowners call for consultations.
However, the arduous process of finding representation becomes worthwhile when you consider the following: The valuation cases in the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network show a HUGE discrepancy between what is offered by the court appointed commissioners verses OTA's best offer. The court awarded amounts on appeal for about 10 cases totaled $1,626,485 vs. $593,840 from the initial court commissioners offer.
"In determining the market value of real property taken by power of eminent domain, it is not merely the value of the property for the use to which is had been employed by the owner that should be considered, but it's adaptability to all purposes, present and prospective, to which it may reasonably be applied by the condemnee must be considered and taken into account in fixing such value". This was litigated in OTA v. Martin, where the landowners sought compensation for the value of a gravel deposit on the land that had commercial value. The market value was established by expert witness at $15,500, while OTA's witnesses valued it at between $239 and $800.
One Eastern Oklahoma County area example - Orchards appear to have been carefully avoided during this alignment.
Read full article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeleef/2016/03/15/sorry-mr-trump-but-youre-completely-wrong-about-eminent-domain/2/#7d9bce793add
Let me summarize the following article in one sentence: Mary Fallin will sign laws banning eminent domain for energy sector wind farms that could potentially compete with her oil cronies, but she supports eminent domain for OTA, a quasi-goverment agency headed by her appointees and campaign donors.
Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law an eminent domain measure that protects rural landowners from the threat of companies looking for locations to build wind turbines.
The bill's author, Sen. Ron Justice, of Chickasha, said wind power provides a tremendous boost to the state's economy, but he said it is important to protect landowners' rights.
The law was heralded by a northwest Oklahoma property owners group.
“The Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition supports any legislation which will help landowners protect their property now and for future generations,” the group said Friday. “We feel this is a step in the right direction since the use of eminent domain for profit is becoming a hot topic.”
Full article here: http://newsok.com/article/3567697
While the idea of new road may excite some, many Oklahomans resent the intrusion of yet another Turnpike. Questions from residents abound as Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has been unable, or unwilling, to answer some very fundamental questions about the contractors and numbers used to justify recent projects. Has the turnpike authority contracted with a firm known for providing erroneous data? Research into the issue suggests so.
"Wilbur Smith Associates had predicted that traffic volumes on the Indiana Toll Road would increase at a rate of 22 percent over the first seven years. Instead, traffic volumes shrank 11 percent in the first eight. By the time the firm filed for Chapter 11, debt on the road had ballooned to $5.8 billion."
In 2012, the Reston (VA) Citizens Association completed a study examining traffic projections provided by engineering firm Wilbur Smith. The group collected data from 26 toll road projects on which Wilbur Smith had produced the traffic projections. During the first five years that were forecast, traffic projections overshot actual traffic every single year, and by an average of 109 percent, according to the report.
Randy Salzman, associate editor at Thinking Highways North America, has studied these types of deals for years. He’s never seen a case where a private consulting firm like CDM Smith underestimated toll revenues on a privately-financed highway. “If there was honest predicting, some percentage of them would under-predict traffic,” he said. “There would be a bell curve. Instead, what we have is these projections that are always immensely above what the actual traffic is.”
There is ample incentive for these firms to inflate numbers. Firms that predict high levels of traffic attract investment dollars and regulatory approvals, which lead to construction projects, and the same firms often end up directly cashing in.
Around 2011, prominent traffic revenue and toll consulting company Wilbur Smith Associates combined with CDM Smith citing that 'The two firms have 'compatible cultures and values'. As Oklahoma residents feared, CDM Smith is a consideration in current Oklahoma Turnpike projections and planning. (See Item 154) Many in the path of the future turnpike loop wonder why OTA would use a company with such a dismal history of failure. Is there some benefit to OTA if the numbers were erroneously inflated?
When you consider that OTA will receive an influx of over $890 million from a single bond sale, the answer becomes clear. Residents are concerned that eminent domain is being used to stabilize a dying agency, rather than building roads based on corroborated numbers. Local residents state, "It will add insult to injury if our land is taken 'for the good of the state', only to find out the need was fabricated out of greed. It rips at the very fabric of our rights and guarantees as U.S. Citizens."
Please read the full article from StreetBlog USA: The Great Traffic Projection SwindleOTA contracts to CDM Smith: https://www.pikepass.com/pdf/December%202015%20Authority%20Agenda.pdf (Item 154)