Nine States Vote To Reclaim Property Rights

Voters Respond to Supreme Court Ruling, Says NCPA Scholar


DALLAS (November 8, 2006) - Lost in the buzz about a shift in control of Congress, voters in nine states took the first steps in reclaiming private property rights threatened by recent court decisions.  According to H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), private property rights have long been ignored as a "constitutional step-child" by federal courts.

"In the vast majority of the states that considered the issue, people took back their property rights," said Burnett, noting that 9 of the 11 states that considered restrictions on eminent domain and regulatory takings passed those measures by wide margins.  "The citizens of these states have spoken."

According to Burnett, this movement to reclaim property rights should help the environment in the long run.  In these states, environmentalists will have to negotiate with property owners.  And property owners, no longer fearing unjustified environmental initiatives that might restrict or take their property will no longer have the incentive to take actions that make their lands less valuable for species habitat or outdoor recreation.

Since a 2004 constitutional amendment made Oregon the only state to allow payments for so-called "regulatory takings," there have been more than 2,400 claims requesting more than $5.6 billion in compensation. Oregon's law requires a government body to "pay or waive," meaning it can waive the regulation instead of compensating a property owner for a diminished use of his land. In every claim so far that the state found to be valid, the government has chosen to waive the regulation, or give a partial waiver, rather than pay.

"The Supreme Court's Kelo decision was the spark that fueled voter outrage," said Burnett.