Eminent domain issue resurfaces on Capitol Hill

Farm Bureau-supported legislation that would strengthen private property rights was approved last week in the House of Representatives by a margin of 356-65. The bill, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 1944), prohibits states that receive federal economic development funding from exercising eminent domain for private economic development. The bill also prevents the use of eminent domain by the federal government for economic development purposes.

The measure addresses at the federal level the 2005 Kelo vs. New London decision. In the Kelo case, New London, Conn., homeowners sued the city for the right to keep their homes, which the city had seized under eminent domain to let a private developer turn the area into a commercial complex. The Supreme Court on June 23, 2005, ruled 5-4 in favor of New London, allowing local governments to seize private property for economic development.

Ohio Farm Bureau was very involved with the initiative to reform eminent domain law in Ohio, to ensure the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes is strictly limited. However, it could be possible that the federal government may be able to use its eminent domain power under the Kelo decision within Ohio. While it may be unlikely, having federal statute to clarify the law would provide even greater protection for property owners.

In addition, there are very limited exemptions in Ohio law that could allow the use of eminent domain for economic development. This legislation could help to further limit the practice within Ohio, even where those very unique exemptions might apply.

For more details on eminent domain, read Leah Curtis’s blog and download the members-only informationals brochure.