Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, February 22, 2006, 12:01 AM
In a rare display of unanimity that cuts across partisan and geographic lines, lawmakers in virtually every statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional amendments to limit use of the government’s power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes.
Rarely has a Supreme Court ruling created such a universal reaction that was not made up along party lines. The idea that the loss of private property to private development seems to have struck a cord with state and local legislatures and they are passing laws that would disallow many situations that would involve emminent domain. In fact, one of the justices seemed to apologize after the 4-3 decision and said that “We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any state from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power.”
“It’s open season on eminent domain,” said Larry Morandi, a land-use specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Bills are being pushed by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and they’re passing by huge margins.” Americans see property ownership, and the rights associated with them, as a right of citizenship. This ruling seemed to bypass American sentiment.
Like everything to do with real estate, Americans tend to go from one extreme to the other. More neutral observers expressed concern that state officials, in their zeal to protect homeowners and small businesses, would handcuff local governments that are trying to revitalize dying cities and fill in blighted areas with projects that produce tax revenues and jobs. Many emminent domain situations need to be judged on a case-by-case basis.
Explicit bans. Some bills would ban the use of eminent domain for economic development. Others would do so indirectly by stating when it can be used and leaving commercial development off the list.
Narrower rules. Many states are considering making it harder for cities to declare a neighborhood “blighted” just for economic development.
Economic penalties. New York and Indiana are among states considering making eminent domain more expensive. The government would have to pay 25% or 50% above market value when it confiscates a property for commercial development.
_Here’s a sample of the action that is taking place to limit takings:_
Eminent-domain bills given a hearing [Baltimore Sun]
Limiting eminent domain [Journal-Advocate - CO]
Rethinking eminent domain: Lawmakers want to curtail the power of local governments [Bradenton Herald - FL]