NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

STATES REINING IN EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSES

August 2, 2006

In the year since "Kelo v. City of New London, Conn." was decided, more than 38 states debated legislation restricting eminent domain.  Eighteen states enacted laws limiting the scope of state and local governments' ability to take private property via eminent domain, says H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The scope of these laws varies greatly, but most focus primarily on instances where the property at issue is to be transferred to a private party -- rather than a government entity -- in the hope that more revenue, and hence more jobs and taxes, will result from the new private use, explains Burnett.  Some examples:

  • Georgia passed a law which defines public uses for which eminent domain may be exercised and prohibits the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes, including enhancement of the tax base or tax revenue.
  • Indiana cleared a measure that redefines blighted areas to emphasize properties that are detrimental to public health and safety; the law also requires compensation when the property condemned is the person's primary residence at a rate equal to 150 percent of fair market value.
  • Kentucky approved legislation prohibiting the transfer of property to a private entity for economic development purposes, including enhancement of the tax base or tax revenue.

But other states have had a more difficult time passing legislation, says Burnett.  Arizona, Iowa and Nevada passed eminent domain laws, only to have their governors veto them. Iowa's bipartisan eminent domain legislation passed by wide majorities in the House (89-5) and the Senate (43-6), leaving many quite surprised when the governor vetoed the bill.

Overall, experts agree the issue is far from resolved, says Burnett, and is likely to be revisited even in states that have passed eminent domain legislation.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "States Take Action to Rein in Eminent Domain Abuses," Environment and Climate News, Heartland Institute, August 1, 2006

 

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