April 2, 2007

States Expanding Protections for Property Owners

34

That’s the number of states that have expanded protections for property owners and curbed government’s powers to condemn private land for economic development.

More than two-thirds of states (34 of 50) have expanded protections for property owners and curbed government’s powers to condemn private land for economic development. The movement to roll back government’s eminent domain powers is a backlash against the high court’s June 2005 decision in Kelo vs. New London, Conn. Since the Kelo ruling, legislatures in 27 states have enacted laws that either prohibit or make it harder for local governments to use eminent domain to take land for private development. Last year voters in 10 states adopted measures that restrict eminent domain, duplicating legislative efforts in three of those states. Wyoming in February enacted a new law in response to the Kelo ruling that seeks to bolster homeowners’ rights when private land is taken by eminent domain, but it stops short of restricting commercial uses for the land. The legislatures in New Mexico and Virginia also approved changes to their eminent domain statutes this year. The New Mexico bill is awaiting the governor’s signature, while Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) recently returned an eminent domain bill to the General Assembly with minor amendments. Arizona and Oregon remain the only two states to decree that property owners should be compensated when government regulations diminish the value of their land. The payments are called “regulatory takings.”