Last month, Alabama decided to once again allow the government to take land from one private property owner to give it to politically influential corporations and other private parties. As readers know, these collusive schemes between powerful corporations and governments were sanctioned by the Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London. That case held that the Fifth Amendment’s “public use” requirement doesn’t preclude these boondoggles, because the government might believe that transferring the property to another private party could lead to economic growth and raise tax revenues.
There was a major public backlash to the decision that caused legislatures in over 40 states and the federal government to impose restrictions on their use of eminent domain. Alabama adopted some of the best property rights protections in the nation because of the pressure from this public outcry. Though the political response was something to cheer in the wake of the disastrous decision by the Supreme Court, Alabama’s decision to renege demonstrates why these constitutional protections must be enforced by the courts, and not a political body. As Reason’s Hit & Run Blog reports:
The new law makes Alabama the second state to renege on strong eminent domain reform. (Utah stripped eminent domain powers from redevelopment authorities in 2005 only to partially restore them in 2007.)
Legislatures cannot be relied upon to defend the Constitution from themselves, political will is simply too fickle. Now, unfortunate Alabama property owners must hope that the state courts will defend them from the avarice of corporations and government officials.