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  1. kepetri is offline
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    Posted On:
    11/03/2005 7:31pm

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    Eminent Domain

    It looks like the House is moving to counter one of the most disturbing Supreme Court decisions in a long time.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051103/...tkBHNlYwM3MTg-

    House Vote Counters Eminent Domain Measure By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
    35 minutes ago



    WASHINGTON - Contending that the Supreme Court has undermined a pillar of American society, the sanctity of the home, the House overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday to block the court-approved seizure of private property for use by developers.

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    The bill, passed 376-38, would withhold federal money from state and local governments that use powers of eminent domain to force businesses and homeowners to give up their property for commercial uses.

    The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in June, recognized the power of local governments to seize property needed for private development projects that generate tax revenue. The decision drew criticism from private property, civil rights, farm and religious groups that said it was an abuse of the Fifth Amendment's "takings clause." That language provides for the taking of private property, with fair compensation, for public use.

    The court's June decision, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., changed established constitutional principles by holding that "any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party."

    The ruling in Kelo v. City of New London allowed the Connecticut city to exercise state eminent domain law to require several homeowners to cede their property for commercial use.

    With this "infamous" decision, said Rep. Phil Gingrey (news, bio, voting record), R-Ga., "homes and small businesses across the country have been placed in grave jeopardy and threatened by the government wrecking ball."

    The bill, said Chip Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice, which represented the Kelo homeowners before the Supreme Court, "highlights the fact that this nation's eminent domain and urban renewal laws need serious and substantial changes."

    But opponents argued that the federal government should not be interceding in what should be a local issue. "We should not change federal law every time members of Congress disagree with the judgment of a locality when it uses eminent domain for the purpose of economic development," said Rep. Bobby Scott (news, bio, voting record), D-Va.

    The legislation is the latest, and most far-reaching, of several congressional responses to the court ruling. The House previously passed a measure to bar federal transportation money from going for improvements on land seized for private development. The Senate approved an amendment to a transportation spending bill applying similar restrictions. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, has introduced companion legislation.

    About half the states are also considering changes in their laws to prevent takings for private use.

    The Bush administration, backing the House bill, said in a statement that "private property rights are the bedrock of the nation's economy and enjoy constitutionally protected status. They should also receive an appropriate level of protection by the federal government."

    The House bill would cut off for two years all federal economic development funds to states and localities that use economic development as a rationale for property seizures. It also would bar the federal government from using eminent domain powers for economic development.

    "By subjecting all projects to penalties, we are removing a loophole that localities can exploit by playing a 'shell game' with projects," said Rep. Henry Bonilla (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, a chief sponsor.

    The House, by a voice vote, approved Gingrey's proposal to bar states or localities in pursuit of more tax money from exercising eminent domain over nonprofit or tax-exempt religious organizations. Churches, he said, "should not have to fear because God does not pay enough in taxes."

    Eminent domain, the right of government to take property for public use, is typically used for projects that benefit an entire community, such as highways, airports or schools.

    Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion in Kelo, said in an August speech that while he had concerns about the results, the ruling was legally correct because the high court has "always allowed local policy-makers wide latitude in determining how best to achieve legitimate public goals."

    Several lawmakers who opposed the House bill said eminent domain has long been used by local governments for economic development projects such as the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and the cleaning up of Times Square in New York. The District of Columbia is expected to use eminent domain to secure land for a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals.

    ___

    On the Net:

    Information on the bill, H.R. 4128, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/
  2. Peter H. is offline

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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 9:13am


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    Saw this this morning. The Senate version is expected to be approved quickly.
    "Quiet fool before I am kicking the butt!"
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  3. Memnoch1207 is offline

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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 9:27am


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    Wonder how Bush feels about this...considering he imposed eminent domain on his Texas residents to get the Texas Rangers stadium built.
  4. kepetri is offline
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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 9:49am

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    Bush is backing it. I don't know the specifics of that stadium, but many stadiums are public projects, even though they are supporting a privately owned team (something I strongly disagree with, but will never go away). Based on that, they would probably not have a problem. If it was a stadium being built by a private party (Like the one in D.C., if I remember correctly), they probably wouldn't be able to use eminent domain.

    The law is basically designed to stop cities from taking private homes and property under eminent domain and giving them to developers and business who will pay more taxes. Having been in a situation like this that almost ended up as the test case for the Supreme Court, I'm happy to see this law getting some attention. I was afraid interest would fade quickly after the decision.
  5. Peter H. is offline

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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 9:51am


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    Quote Originally Posted by Memnoch1207
    Wonder how Bush feels about this...considering he imposed eminent domain on his Texas residents to get the Texas Rangers stadium built.
    He probably feels nothing considering that eminent domain wasn't used to build the stadium and that the start of construction occured 5 years before Bush was govenor.
    "Quiet fool before I am kicking the butt!"
    -My three year old trash talking to me

    "Integrity can't be bought or sold---you either have it or you don't."
    -The Honky Tonk Man

    "If you can't be a shining example, at least be a dire warning."
    -My Father to me one day

    "No surprise. Until Aikido sheds its street-brawling, thuggish image, it'll never be mainstream."
    -Don Gwinn
  6. warnerj5000 is offline

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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 9:54am


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    I'm no constitutional expert, but since the Supreme Court already found that it is constitutionally permissable to allow the local and state governments to sieze property for this reason, would it therefore be unconstitutional for the federal government to try to prevent them from being able to do this?
  7. Peter H. is offline

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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 10:01am


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    Quote Originally Posted by warnerj5000
    I'm no constitutional expert, but since the Supreme Court already found that it is constitutionally permissable to allow the local and state governments to sieze property for this reason, would it therefore be unconstitutional for the federal government to try to prevent them from being able to do this?
    The Federal Government isn't preventing anyone from using eminent domain in any way, they simple are withholding Federal Funds to States that do use it in a way they don't agree with. That has long been an accepted method for the Fed to influence States (anyone remember speed limits and Federal highway funds?), last time I checked, there was no Constitutional Guarnatee of Federal Funds.
    "Quiet fool before I am kicking the butt!"
    -My three year old trash talking to me

    "Integrity can't be bought or sold---you either have it or you don't."
    -The Honky Tonk Man

    "If you can't be a shining example, at least be a dire warning."
    -My Father to me one day

    "No surprise. Until Aikido sheds its street-brawling, thuggish image, it'll never be mainstream."
    -Don Gwinn
  8. kepetri is offline
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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 10:07am

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    Article V of the constitution just says that "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." I think the Court argued that the government was free to set standards as they liked, but in the absence of them, "public use" would be interpreted broadly.
  9. kepetri is offline
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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 10:13am

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter H.
    The Federal Government isn't preventing anyone from using eminent domain in any way, they simple are withholding Federal Funds to States that do use it in a way they don't agree with. That has long been an accepted method for the Fed to influence States (anyone remember speed limits and Federal highway funds?), last time I checked, there was no Constitutional Guarnatee of Federal Funds.
    Also a good point. The federal government has expanded it's power way beyond where it was originally envisioned using this method. It seems to be a really unfortunate consequence of the 16th ammendment allowing the taxation of income. Before that, I don't think the federal government really had much money to throw around. I don't like it, but you can't argue that it isn't a winning tactic.
  10. Cassius is offline
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    Posted On:
    11/04/2005 10:21am

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter H.
    The Federal Government isn't preventing anyone from using eminent domain in any way, they simple are withholding Federal Funds to States that do use it in a way they don't agree with. That has long been an accepted method for the Fed to influence States (anyone remember speed limits and Federal highway funds?), last time I checked, there was no Constitutional Guarnatee of Federal Funds.
    And Peter H has the correct. I'd have to see the specific language of the bills, but so far I am liking this A LOT.
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