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August 31st, 2015 — By — In Articles

U.S. House of Representatives Re-Introduces Bill Limiting the Government’s Exercise of Eminent Domain

United States Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has re-introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would place limits on federal, state and local governments’ exercise of the power of eminent domain. If passed, the Private Property Rights Protection Act (PPRPA) would provide a financial disincentive for state and local government agencies seeking to condemn private property for purposes of “economic development.”

Bill Proposes Prohibitions on Use of Eminent Domain for Economic Development
Calling condemnations of private property for economic development an “abuse” of the power of eminent domain, the PPRPA establishes that any state or local government using its power of eminent domain for such takings would become ineligible for federal funds for two years following a court’s determination that the PPRPA has been violated.

In addition, the law prohibits the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development purposes. Under the Act, landowners and tenants harmed by economic development takings have a private right of action to enforce any provision of the Act in court and may also seek a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order to prevent condemnation of their property, if appropriate. The PPRPA focuses specifically on condemnations for “economic development,” defined as:

“[T]aking private property, without the consent of the owner, and conveying or leasing such property from one private person or entity to another private person or entity for commercial enterprise carried on for profit, or to increase tax revenue, tax base, employment, or general economic health . . .”

The Act also provides examples of eminent domain that are specifically excluded from its definition of “economic development,” these include:

• Roads, hospitals, airports, military bases and other public properties
• Privately-owned public projects, such as railroads
• Acquiring abandoned property
• Clearing defective chains of title
• Use by utility companies, as in the case of the Keystone XL Pipeline

It should be noted that prior versions of the PPRPA have failed to attain the necessary support to become law. However, if the 2015 bill is successful, it will represent a landmark victory for the rights of private property owners across America.

The Private Property Rights Protection Act and Kelo v. City of New London
The original PPRPA was a response to the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case of Kelo v. City of New London. In Kelo, the Supreme Court held that the power of eminent domain could be used to take property from one private owner and transfer to another private entity if the transfer would benefit “economic development.”

More specifically, the Court allowed the condemnation of land and homes owned by private citizens for use by Pfizer in the development of a $300 million research facility that has never been built.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo, the use of eminent domain for economic development has been a hot button issue with lawmakers and property owners throughout the country. Read more about the fallout from Kelo v. City of New London.

Contact an Eminent Domain Lawyer at Owners’ Counsel of America
Owners’ Counsel of America is a network of experienced attorneys who are dedicated to defending the rights of private property owners. To find an eminent domain attorney in your area, call (877) 367-6963 or contact us online today.