Many states have enacted eminent domain reform since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which broadly defined “public use” to include the government’s acquiring property for another private owner to realize an economic benefit (such as increasing tax revenues). However, as reported by the Institute for Justice in its 50 States Report Card, many of those reform efforts have been insignificant. And, despite repeated efforts over the last 13 years, Congress has yet to pass legislation limiting the use of eminent domain for truly public uses. However, the proposed effort to pursue eminent domain reform has not gone away, as an article by FreedomWorks is reporting that this week the House Judiciary Committee will markup the Private Property Rights Protection Act, H.R. 1689.
If passed, the Private Property Rights Protection Act would prohibit any state or federal government agency that received federal economic development funds from using eminent domain for purposes of economic development. The bill would also provide private property owners with more rights should their property be taken for economic development purposes. The question is whether the bill will gain enough momentum this time around, as it previously passed by overwhelming margins in the House in 2005, 2012 by voice vote, and 2014, yet it has never been considered by the Senate.
Perhaps this time it will be different, especially with the recent release of the movie Little Pink House, which covers the City of New London’s efforts to condemn Susette Kelo’s house to enhance the City’s tax base. If you’re interested in this topic, it sounds like a must-see (or if you’re more of a reader, check out Jeff Benedict’s book, which I recently received as a gracious gift by the former IRWA President). Columnist George Will wrote that the movie “will win the Oscar for best picture if Hollywood’s political preening contains even a scintilla of sincerity about speaking truth to power.”
So stay tuned for eminent domain reform, and perhaps Oscar nominations.