House of Representatives passes eminent domain reform bill

February 29, 2012 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

After the infamous decision in Kelo v. New London, the fight over eminent domain abuse shifted primarily to states, many of which passed laws designed (or, at least, pretending) to restrict the power of eminent domain. Federal reform seemed less likely, for a number of reasons—primarily because most eminent domain abuse occurs in the name of “redevelopment,” which is primarily a state and local matter. But many such redevelopment projects are funded at least in part by federal subsidies, and on Tuesday night, the House of Representatives, without significant opposition, passed HR 1433, which restricts the use of eminent domain for redevelopment on federally funded projects. It provides that a state receiving federal funding for redevelopment may not use eminent domain to take property and then use that property for economic development within seven years of the taking. It also prohibits the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development, although as I said, that hardly ever happens. It also has a curious statement of the “sense of Congress” declaring that the abuse of eminent domain is a threat to “rural America.” This is bizarre, because, on the contrary, eminent domain abuse is primarily an urban problem, and the victims are primarily small businesses located in areas that redevelopment robber barons see as likely places for their political connections to pay off. Still, it’s good to see the issue being kept in the public eye, and there is still hope that meaningful eminent domain reform might be brought about.