by Anthony F. Della Pelle / New Jersey Condemnation Law
The United States House of Representatives this week passed bipartisan legislation that proposes to withhold for two years all federal development funding to states or local governments that take private property for economic development. The bill, labeled the Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1443), also bars the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development purposes and gives private property owners the right to take legal action if provisions of the legislation are violated.
The legislation was sponsored by an unusual combination of lawmakers –Wisconsin Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner and California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. It received nearly unanimous support, with only Michigan Democrat John Conyers voicing opposition. Congresswoman Waters stated that her support for the bill comes in part from the idea that poor people and minorities stand the most to lose from the use of eminent domain for economic redevelopment, where powerful developers or other politically-connected people or companies may prosper at the expense of those who are poor or week.
This is the latest effort by federal legislators to curb the use of eminent domain for economic development, and to minimize abuses of the government’s condemnation power. A similar bill was passed by the House in late 2005, months after the controversial ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in City of New London v. Kelo, but did not gain approval in the Senate.
The current bill will now move on to the Senate for consideration. We’ll be watching to see if this version gets any further than its predecessor.