rights revolt sweeps nation
August 26, 2005
Eminent domain decision prompts California
By Glenn Roberts Jr.
California legislators are considering two laws
that relate to eminent domain seizure of private
property, in the wake of the controversial 5-4 U.S.
Supreme Court decision (Kelo v. New London) in June
that backed the authority of a municipality to buy
up and tear down homes to make way for a
One of the bills, Assembly Bill 590, was first
proposed in February as a housing-discrimination
measure but was radically amended in July as
primarily a bill relating to eminent domain laws.
This bill provides that, while eminent domain may be
exercised to acquire property only for a public use,
"In the exercise of eminent domain, 'public use'
does not include the taking or damaging of property
for private use, including, but not limited to, the
condemnation of non-blighted property for private
On Aug. 15 the bill was re-referred for
consideration by a Housing and Community Development
The other bill, Senate Constitutional Amendment 15,
would provide that private property "may be taken or
damaged only for a stated public use. The measure
would also require that the property be owned and
occupied by the condemnor, except as specified, and
used only for the stated public use."
If the property "ceases to be used for the stated
public use, the former owner, or a beneficiary or an
heir who has been designated for this purpose, would
have the right to reacquire the property for its
fair market value before the property may be
otherwise sold or transferred," the legislation also
This measure, which requires a two-thirds majority
vote, was re-referred to the Senate Rules Committee
The California Association of Realtors has
reportedly not yet taken a position on the proposed
Ron Kingston, a lobbyist for the state association,
said, "Some local redevelopment agencies have become
very aggressive in condemning property in eminent
domain proceedings, but the high court's ruling is
still too fresh and too complex an issue," according
to a report in Realtor Magazine, a publication of
the National Association of Realtors trade group.
The national association is planning to host a
session at its upcoming annual conference titled,
"Eminent Domain: How to protect property rights
after Kelo." And the association considers private
property rights to be the "cornerstone of the real
He added, "It's unfamiliar territory and we don't
need to respond this quickly."
Legislators in several other states have also
pitched bills to limit municipalities' eminent
Earlier this month, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley signed a
state law that strengthens private property rights
by prohibiting state or local governments from
"condemning private property in non-blighted areas
for the purpose of retail, commercial, industrial,
office or residential development," according to an
Aug. 3 announcement.
"A property rights revolt is sweeping the nation and
Alabama is leading it," Riley said in a statement
about the new state law. The announcement states
that at least eight other states passed laws, before
the Supreme Court's ruling, that prevented the use
of eminent domain for economic development unless it
is used to eliminate blight.
Copyright 2005 Inman News