Update: The House passed H.R. 1433 by a voice vote on February 28. The Senate has not voted on this bill yet.
Eminent domain: A term that can strike fear in the heart of any property owner, as Susette Kelo, lead plaintiff in the infamous 2005 Kelo v. City of New London case knows only too well. Others since that calamitous decision have also felt the helplessness of having their private property rights assaulted by developers of private economic projects. Thankfully, there have been some judicial reviews that have protected private property rights. But why should home or small business owners be put through an expensive and stressful legal battle to keep what is rightfully theirs?
Help is on the way with the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012, H.R. 1433, introduced by Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner; it already has 28 cosponsors. Democrats and Republicans alike are supporting the bill. It was amended and reported out of the House Judiciary Committee with a 23-5 approval vote on January 24. The House is expected to vote on H.R. 1433 at 6:30 p.m. ET on February 27, 2012.
According to H.R. 1433: “No State or political subdivision of a State shall exercise its power of eminent domain, or allow the exercise of such power by any person or entity to which such power has been delegated, over property to be used for economic development or over property that is used for economic development within 7 years after that exercise, if that State or political subdivision receives Federal economic development funds during any fiscal year in which the property is so used or intended to be used." Furthermore, "The Federal Government or any authority of the Federal Government shall not exercise its power of eminent domain to be used for economic development."
In Kelo, the federal government unfairly stretched the “takings clause” when it declared that economic development projects more than met the “public use” criteria of the Fifth Amendment, once meant to protect our property rights from undue government interference. Private ownership is a fundamental right and has always been the sound underpinning for security in ownership. Coupled with the Fourteenth Amendment, the government is prohibited from taking private property "without due process of law."
If the federal government had not violated these basic principles in modern times, H.R. 1433 would not be necessary. The force of H.R. 1433 lies not so much with any type of imposed penalties, but more within the realm of motivation. If states and localities know they will lose federal economic development funds if they wrongly use eminent domain, they will be far more respectful of others' private property rights to begin with.
To secure what was once the almost sacred principle of private ownership, and to protect citizens from having their property stripped from them due to abuse of eminent domain by officials, please contact your Representative and Senators and have them support, promote, and pass the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012, H.R. 1433.