Congress Kills Commercial Eminent Domain

Castle Coalition - hands off my homeOk, this is a big win with a big caveat: it sunsets in two frickin years. Can anyone else say “presidential campaign issue?” Kip Esquire correctly points out in the comments that the bill doesn’t expire in two years. Instead all federal funding is cut for two years. Honest mistake, and we’re much happier now (though I’d still like to see it codified as an amendment that can’t be overturned by the SCOTUS again).

Today, backed by president Bush, Congress passed House Resolution 4128 (text of bill), which in effect strips all federal funding from states that allow seizing of homes for economic development. After an overwhelming 376-38 vote, it’s uncertain just why they decided to sunset the change in just two years and (see above) didn’t push for an amendment to permanently protect property rights from eminent domain abuses.

The Castle Coalition, one of the most prominent groups fighting eminent domain, hailed the legislation as a win, saying in a press release “The legislation strikes the perfect balance. It serves to reassure every American that federal dollars — their own money — won’t be used to kick them off their land, while allowing state and local governments to use federal dollars for actual public uses, like roads and military bases.”

In related news, this will certainly kill any possibility of Louisana lawmakers making use of eminent domain to seize homes in areas of New Orleans devastated by breeched levee flooding. The NOLA seizure plan would have given developers large swathes of land where homes are condemned due to flood damage.

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. I’m not sure which it is, but either I’m misreading your post or you’re misreading the bill. It does not sunset after two years.

    The bill says that “A violation … by a State or political subdivision shall render such State or political subdivision ineligible for any Federal economic development funds for a period of 2 fiscal years following a final judgment on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction that such subsection has been violated.”

    In other words, a state that engages in private-for-private takings forfeits its federal fudns for two years. But the law itself does not expire after two years.

    Sorry if I’m misinterpreting your post.

  2. This legislation only involves projects which use Federal funds. Most eminent domain uses state funds. In addition, as Justice Stevens said in Kelo, “economic development” is so vague that it doesn’t distinguish one kind of eminent domain from another.

    I don’t think people realize that the political system has no intention of giving up its present use of eminent domain. It will go to any lengths to try to defuse opposition to eminent domain. Your comments show that you have fallen victim to the political system’s attempt to wait until the opposition to eminent domain “goes away.”

    You need to study the terms of this crisis a lot more closely; you don’t know the law and you don’t know the facts. Here is an article which may knock some sense into your head:

    Ryskamp, John Henry, “Kelo, Lawrence and the New Right to Housing Under the New Due Process” (November 2, 2005).

  3. Where is the bread buttered? Interesting, although I woudln’t mind federal funding being taken away, this is the best incentive that you could put in.