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March 6th, 2012 — By — In News & Events

Will National Eminent Domain Reform be a Reality in 2012?

Last week (February 28), the United States House of Representatives passed by the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 1443), which is intended to prevent the misuse of eminent domain for economic development.  The proposed bill is not a cure for eminent domain abuse.  Rather, it moves eminent domain reform forward on national level by cutting federal economic development funds to state and local governments that justify taking private property for economic development.  If a government violates the bill’s ban on economic development takings, federal development subsidies will be withheld for two years.  Further, the bill provides private property owners with the right to take legal action against any government entity that violates the provisions of the law.

The Private Property Rights Restoration Act will provide American citizens in every state with the means to protect their private property from exceedingly unsubstantiated claims of eminent domain.  Under the legislation, if a state or political subdivision of a state uses its eminent domain power to transfer private property to other private parties for economic development, the state is ineligible to receive federal economic development funds for two fiscal years following a judicial determination that the law has been violated.  Additionally, the bill prohibits the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development purposes.

The protection of property rights is one of the most important tenets of our government.  I am mindful of the long history of eminent domain abuses, particularly in low-income and often predominantly minority neighborhoods, and the need to stop it.  I am also mindful of the reasons we should allow the government to take land when the way in which the land is being used constitutes an immediate threat to public health and safety.  I believe this bill accomplishes both goals.

Excerpted from the text of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s remarks on the House floor introducing H.R. 1433.

As many will remember, this is not the first time that legislation has been introduced to limit the use of eminent domain for economic development.  Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in City of New London v. Kelo, the House passed a similar measure in response to the Court’s decision and the national cry of outrage that followed.  Unfortunately, the 2005 legislation died in the Senate before making its way to the floor for a vote.  The current legislation, H.R. 1433, is now in the Senate Judiciary committee.  Let’s hope that this bill makes it to the Senate floor for a vote.

For more discussion on H.R. 1433 see also: