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Public Statements

Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS PROTECTION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - November 03, 2005)

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this important piece of legislation. I want to thank Chairman Sensenbrenner for his leadership on this issue. I also appreciate the hard work of Congressman Henry Bonilla, who introduced the STOPP Act, legislation that passed out of the Agriculture Committee, and Ranking Member Peterson on the Agriculture Committee, as well as Ranking Member Conyers on the Judiciary Committee.

I especially want to thank my colleague from South Dakota (Ms. Herseth) who was the first Democrat to take a leading role on this issue in introducing the STOPP Act, and it is in part due to her leadership that we will have a very strong bipartisan vote on this legislation today.

Private ownership of property is vital to our freedom and our prosperity, and it is one of the most fundamental principles embedded in our Constitution. The Founders realized the importance of property rights when they codified the takings clause of the fifth amendment to the Constitution, which requires that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.

This clause created two conditions to the government taking private property: that the subsequent use of the property is for the public and that the government gives the property owners just compensation.

However, the Supreme Court's recent 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London is a step in the opposite direction. This controversial ruling expands the ability of State and local governments to exercise eminent domain powers to seize properties under the guise of economic development when the public use is as incidental as generating tax revenues or creating jobs, even in situations where the government takes property from one private individual and gives it to another private entity.

By defining public use so expansively, the Court essentially erased any protection for private property as understood by the Founders of our Nation. In the wake of this decision, State and local governments can use eminent domain powers to take the property of any individual for nearly any reason. Cities may now bulldoze private citizens' homes, farms, and small businesses to make way for shopping malls or other developments.

For these reasons, I joined with Chairman Sensenbrenner to introduce H.R. 4128, the Private Property Rights Protection Act. This important piece of legislation represents a merger between two pieces of legislation, H.R. 3135, introduced by Chairman Sensenbrenner, and H.R. 3405, the STOPP Act, which I introduced along with the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Bonilla) and the gentlewoman from South Dakota (Ms. Herseth) and which passed the House Committee on Agriculture by a strong bipartisan vote of 40 to 1.

I am pleased that H.R. 4128 incorporates many provisions from the STOPP Act. Specifically, this new legislation would prohibit all Federal economic development funds for a period of 2 years for any State or local government that uses economic development as a justification for taking property from one person and giving it to another private entity. In addition, this new legislation would allow State and local governments to cure violations by giving the property back to the original owner. Furthermore, this bill specifically grants adversely affected landowners the right to use appropriate legal remedies to enforce the provisions of the bill.

H.R. 4128 also includes a carefully crafted definition of economic development that protects traditional uses of eminent domain, such as taking land for public uses like roads, while prohibiting abuses of eminent domain powers.

No one should have to live in fear of the government snatching up their home, farm, or business; and the Private Property Rights Protection Act will help to create the incentives to ensure that these abuses do not occur in the future.

I urge my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to start by thanking some people who do not always get thanked, and that is the diligent, hard-working staff of the Agriculture Committee on both sides of the aisle, the Judiciary Committee on both sides of the aisle and my congressional office staff. They worked very, very hard on what I think is a comprehensive and carefully crafted piece of legislation.

We are going to begin to entertain some amendments, and some of those amendments could have a devastating impact, a gutting effect on this legislation, and I urge my colleagues to follow that debate closely and help us defeat amendments that would open this back up to the same kind of court misinterpretation that has been a problem here.

Finally, let me say that the United States Constitution protects private property rights as a fundamental right, and we need to make sure that we respond to a Supreme Court decision that has cast private property rights in America into question by passing this important legislation today.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I would say very quickly to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran), the majority that he mistrusts is about the business of protecting the minority that he values, because a private property owner facing eminent domain powers being used to take their property for private economic development purposes is very much alone, and he needs this kind of weight of authority behind him or her to protect their private property rights.

If the gentleman's amendment is adopted, it will reopen exactly the kind of confusing and controversial court decisions that we are about trying to address here today. The specificity in the bill is superior to the gentleman's amendment.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. GINGREY. I yield to the gentleman from Virginia.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I am going to acquiesce with the chairman on the amendment, but I want to express some reservations.

It appears that it is the author's intention that nonprofit and religious organizations not be singled out by local governments due to their tax-exempt status alone. Is that correct?

Mr. GINGREY. That is correct.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, is it also the gentleman's intention that this provision would not trump the other provisions of the bill that provide additional protections to nonprofits by prohibiting takings from private entities for other economic development reasons to give to other private entities?

Mr. GINGREY. That is correct. The gentleman is correct.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, to the extent that the language in the bill could be confusing in the amendment, would the gentleman be willing to work with the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and myself and others to ensure in conference that his intentions are accurately reflected in the amendment language?

Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Chairman, certainly we would be glad to work with both chairmen in regard to that in the conference if there is any confusion regarding the amendment.

Mr. GOODLATTE. I appreciate the gentleman's willingness to work with us; and, on that basis, we will support the amendment.

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