Tuesday, March 28, 2006

State Senate passes eminent domain bill

As part of the continuing backlash over the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain, the Minnesota legislature is considering bills that would limit the use of the government's property-taking power. The Senate version passed yesterday; the House version is expected to reach the floor in a week or so.

The bill would bar cities and counties from taking private property simply to increase their tax base or create jobs.

Local governments still could condemn property for "public use," such as roads, parks or school buildings. They also could use eminent domain to redevelop blighted urban and environmentally contaminated areas. But such areas would be much more tightly defined in law.

The bill is sponsored by a DFLer, Thomas Bakk, but has strong bipartisan support; it passed 64-2.

Eminent domain can be a delicate subject, because while the power is clearly needed and appropriate in most cases, it can easily be abused. The developing consensus seems to (rightly) be that taking private property simply to increase a city's tax base is an inappropriate use.

But it shouldn't be taken too far. When buying up multiple parcels of land for a project, for example, one holdout landowner with unreasonable price demands should not be able to hold the entire project hostage. Sellers should expect a premium on their property, but extortion should not be rewarded.

The first step should be attempting to build the project without the holdout property. Failing that, cities ought to be able to use eminent domain to take the property and compensate the owner with a reasonable premium over fair market value.

Bakk's bill seems to recognize the difficult balance of interests at play. It seems carefully crafted and deserving of support. It may make redevelopment more difficult for some cities, but that's just too bad; if property rights are to mean something, government will often be inconvenienced.

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Anonymous maxtrue said...

It is clear that the commerce clause can lead to unprecedented governmental power. Sometimes, the Left doesn't understand the dangers Big Government unleashes. And yet, we are in the difficult position of needing expanded governmental power in countering threats to domestic security as well as finding viable alternative enrgy solutions and push them to market. This check on power is a smart one and let's hope the courts show judgment on a case-by case-basis, with national good and individual rights both in mind.

3/29/2006 1:33 AM  

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