Senate Needs to Pass Bill That Would Protect Property Rights

Bipartisan legislation that withholds federal funding to communities that commit eminent domain abuse earn House approval.

The freedom to own and protect one’s private property is foundational to our country — our Constitution explicitly protects private property rights.

The House last week approved my legislation, H.R. 1433, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, to protect every citizen’s right to private property, not just the most powerful or profitable. 

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Kelo v. City of New London that private property could be “condemned” for the sole purpose of implementing a local government’s redevelopment plan. In this case, the city seized Susette Kelo’s home to give the property to the Pfizer Corp., but the new owner was unable to obtain funding and the project was never developed.

Practically, this means that government could seize private property if the redevelopment of the property would yield more tax revenue. Prior to the ruling, eminent domain was legally restricted to only projects with a clear public use, such as roads and schools.

I worked with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California, to forge a bipartisan coalition to pass this legislation. The Private Property Rights Protection Act has strong support across the political spectrum. Groups speaking out against the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo include the NAACP, AARP, religious organizations, and the American Farm Bureau.

The Kelo decision tramples our individual rights, giving government more power over Americans’ lives. This is a slippery slope that we can’t let continue, and my legislation will restore eminent domain to its proper, limited role.

My legislation denies states and localities that commit eminent domain abuse all federal economic development funds for a period of two years. The bill also gives property owners a legal recourse to fight economic development takings.

But Americans across the country have already fallen victim to abuse of eminent domain as expanded under Kelo’s definition of public use.

As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in her stinging dissent, “nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz Carlton, any home with a shopping center, or any farm with a factory.”  

This decision disproportionately affects and harms the economically disadvantaged, as well as farmers and ranchers who own and lease significant amounts of land on which they depend for their livelihoods. Wisconsin farms are particularly vulnerable. The fair market value of farmland is less than residential or commercial property, which means it doesn’t generate as much property tax as homes or offices.
Additionally, houses of worship and other religious institutions will be vulnerable targets for eminent domain actions under schemes that disfavor non-profit, tax-exempt property owners.

The House acted to ensure that Americans’ homes, family farms, and small businesses are safe from unjust government seizure. The Senate should pass this bill and restore the government’s power of eminent domain to its limited, proper role

Say What? March 06, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Thanks Bob!
Born Free March 06, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Good thing Maxine isn't to bright. As it is the EPA can abscond any size piece of land if it has even occasional standing water on it claiming it to be a wet land and when they don't directly abscond it from private property owners for pennies on the dollar they will declare it to be undevelopable. There's also something new called Sustainable Community Developement (or some title similar to that) which is a land grab. When private property owe's the city too much back taxes the city takes it. Normally that would be ok as long as the city sells the property back into the private sector, however, now, cities and states that choose to participate in the federal Sustainable Developement project take the federal dollars to pay off those back taxes and consequently have to allow international buyers exclusive rights to buy that property at below market value even if that is only $1. Yes, our federal government is in no other terms taking land away from us for any future residential or commercial developement by private sector persons of the U.S.. Foreign owners of the property are not required to be or become U.S. citizens. AAAnd those new owners get massive tax breaks to do their business here as an extra insentive to buy the property. This is happening all over America. Thousands of acres of state owned lands and forest are being turned over to the fed for the fed dollars. Dilberately crash an economy then no one can afford to own anything. "Sharing the wealth".
Born Free March 06, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Oh and by the way, those foreign interests that establish a business on that land are not required to hire U.S. Citizens -- NO EQUAL OPPORTUNITY laws apply to them!!!
David Montemurri March 06, 2012 at 09:40 PM
This is a good step in the right direction, Individual property rights are the cornerstone of this nation.
John T. Pokrandt March 08, 2012 at 07:35 PM
One of the few times I am in agreement with Sensenbrenner


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