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Monday, August 07, 2006 

States Restricting Eminent Domain and Beyond

In today's Wall Street Journal, Christopher Cooper writes about the state reaction to the Supreme Court's Kelo decision. The reaction to the case has been clear...
When a divided court ruled in Kelo v. New London that private landowners had no constitutional grounds to resist eminent-domain property seizures, it effectively kicked regulation of government condemnation suits back to the states. The reaction has been swift: Several states are considering laws that would limit a local government's ability to exercise eminent domain, or the taking of private property for public purpose. Other measures that voters are likely to consider deal with "takings," or government restrictions on private property, such as zoning and building regulations.
The Supreme Court does an excellent job of bringing attention to an issue and getting people furious about it. They've done it before, and I'm sure that they will do it again. In fact, Grover Norquist talks about that in the article...
Some conservatives say it is ironic that the rush to property rights arose from the Kelo case's Supreme Court ruling, which they didn't feel went their way. Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group in Washington, has pushed similar proposals for years but got little traction from national advocates until the Kelo decision. "Two years ago if you walked down the street yelling that the government was taking our property, people would walk around you, they'd think you were a lunatic," he said. "Since Kelo, property rights has become the center of attention."
You have to love those unintended consequences.

The legislative restrictions are not stopping at the eminent domain front. Property rights advocates are using public outrage to push for major changes in land use law...
Call it Kelo with a twist: Tapping antieminent-domain sentiment that conservatives say runs high among voters, some groups are pushing to limit how governments regulate private property. Measures heading for ballots in a half-dozen states this fall would require governments to compensate landowners if they apply more restrictive zoning retroactively, impose more stringent environmental rules on undeveloped property or apply aesthetic-development regulations on private land as a way to counter urban sprawl.

Some of these measures, called "takings" proposals, began as pure eminent- domain initiatives but have been modified by small-government advocates to make it more difficult to put antisprawl and stricter building-density burdens on current owners. In some cases, the ballot measures would allow a government to waive the requirements for existing landowners; others are tougher, seeking to discourage additional land-use regulations by requiring governments to make cash payments to landowners whenever new rules are imposed.
As a bit of a property rights nut myself, I'm happy to see changes being made. I'm interested to see if the public actually agrees with these specific policies and is not just riding high on the anti-Kelo wave. They may know what they are voting for and they may not. It remains to be seen.

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