November 9, 2006

Protecting Property Rights in a Landslide

By Protecting Property Rights in a Landslide

The Reason Foundation's Leonard Gilroy has an article here about last night's property rights victories. Excerpt:

An overwhelming majority of voters in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Carolina approved constitutional amendments that forbid the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private party to another for economic development purposes, as did Louisiana voters last month. Similar voter-initiated constitutional amendments passed in both North Dakota and Nevada, though Nevadans will need to pass the same amendment in 2008 for it to take effect.

Of all states, voters in Oregon have taken one of the strongest stands in recent years to protect their property rights. Measure 39, a statutory initiative that reigns in eminent domain abuse, passed yesterday by more than a two-thirds margin. Moreover, Measure 39 followed on the heels of voters' passage of Measure 37 in 2004, which was designed to protect Oregonians from "regulatory takings," a far more pervasive threat to private property rights than eminent domain abuse.

Local governments routinely pass restrictions on the ability of property owners to use their land in ways legal at the time they bought their property—resulting in enormous losses to private property values—without compensating owners for these impacts. After several decades enduring egregious regulatory abuse, Oregonians passed Measure 37 to require government to either pay landowners for these "regulatory takings," or waive the regulations.

Voters in Arizona followed Oregon's lead Tuesday and passed Proposition 207—the Private Property Rights Protection Act—by a 65-35 margin, breaking new ground in the process. Prop 207 was designed to address both eminent domain abuse and regulatory takings in one comprehensive set of property rights protections in what has come to be known as a "Kelo-Plus" initiative. Untested prior to this election, the passage of Prop 207 establishes "Kelo-Plus" as a feasible strategy to target the two biggest threats to property rights in one fell swoop.

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