Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, Colorado has been one of the fastest-growing States, and we have our share of contentious land-use disputes--in fact, sometimes it seems we may have more than our share.
And I do think the federal government has a role to play in helping our communities to respond to the problems that come with that rapid growth.
But I don't think the help that's needed is greater involvement of the federal courts in more and more local land-use decisions. And that's what this bill is all about.
This bill does not deal with the questions about use of eminent domain for economic development projects that were involved in the case of Kelo v. New London which attracted so much attention when the Supreme Court issued its decision last year.
I voted for a resolution (H. Res. 340) expressing disapproval of that decision, and for a bill (H.R. 4128) that responded to the decision by barring any state or political subdivision from exercising its power of eminent domain for economic development if that state or political subdivision received federal economic development funds. That bill also would make a state or political subdivision violating that prohibition ineligible for any such funds for two fiscal years, bar the federal government from exercising its power of eminent domain for economic development, and establish a private cause of action for any private property owner who suffers injury as a result of a violation of the bill.
I thought that was an appropriate response to the Kelo decision. But this bill is quite different, and I cannot support it.
I do not think it is needed. The vast majority of land-use disputes, including claims that local regulations or decisions amount to a ``taking'' of property, are resolved at the local or state level without significant delay.
There is no need to short-circuit the decisionmaking process under local and state law. There is no need to bypass our state courts, because, as noted in a letter signed by Attorney Generals of 32 States, ``State courts ..... are ideal forums for resolving disputes involving state and local planning issues [and] ..... the bill thus runs counter to the admonition of Justice Alito ..... that the federal judiciary should avoid procedural rules under which it could be `cast in the role of a zoning board of appeals.' ''
I also don't think the bill is sound policy. I am very concerned that it would severely tilt the field in favor of one interest, developers, and make it even harder for our communities to meet the challenges of growth and sprawl. It would saddle taxpayers of our towns, cities, and counties with the costs of expensive federal litigation. That's one reason it is opposed by the Colorado Municipal League as well as the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Council of State Legislatures, and the Council of State Governments.
It's also not good for our federal courts. When the House considered similar legislation previously, the Judicial Conference of the United States--the body that speaks for our federal judges--said it ``may adversely affect the administration of justice'' and ``contribute to existing backlogs in some judicial districts.''
PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS IMPLEMENTATION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 29, 2006)
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Finally, as a non-lawyer who takes very seriously the oath we all have taken to support the Constitution, I have listened carefully to the views of the many lawyers--including distinguished Members of the Judiciary Committee--who have concluded that the bill is likely unconstitutional.
Even if I thought the bill was otherwise desirable, that would make me hesitate. But, as I've said, the bill has other serious shortcomings--and the constitutional issues that have been raised mean that enacting this bill would inevitably lead to even more protracted and expensive litigation that would go all the way to the Supreme Court. However the Court might finally rule, that additional litigation is not something that I think is necessary or that Congress should encourage. So, again, I cannot vote for this bill.