PASS THE EMINENT DOMAIN BILL

November 20, 2006

In the few weeks left of the 109th Congress, the lame-duck Senate should pass Sen. James Inhofe's (R-Okla.) eminent-domain bill, says the Washington Times.

This bill withholds federal economic-development money for two years from states and municipalities which seize unblighted private property, as occurred in the Kelo vs. New London case, for developers to build condos, shopping malls or other projects outside traditional eminent-domain bounds (highways and rails, for instance). 

A national backlash against such takings is underway, with good reason.  It has manifested itself most recently in the passage of nine state ballot initiatives to limit government eminent-domain powers:

  • Voters in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon and South Carolina all passed restrictions on last week's ballots.
  • Three states that rejected limits -- California, Idaho and Washington -- might also have passed them if the restrictions were not so overreaching.
  • The measures required compensation for land-use and zoning regulations' effects on property-holders' income, which undoubtedly would have been abuse-prone -- not to mention costly for most state and local governments.

Undergirding this is sheer voter revulsion at the image of government seizing a modest but unblighted home like Susette Kelo's, the home she grew up in, to make way for condos and shopping -- all under the guise of "economic development."  Quite reasonably, voters don't want the same thing to happen to their hard-earned investments. Who can blame them?

Passing Inhofe's bill would do right by taxpayers and property owners.  The Times sees no reason why the federal government must help land-grabbing state and local governments in the sordid business of seizing people's homes simply because those governments prefer a tonier clientele.

Source: Editorial, "Pass the eminent domain bill," Washington Times, November 20, 2006.

 

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