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Issue Position: Property Rights

Issue Position

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The hallmark of the American Dream is ownership of private property -- a home and land, the family farm, a place of business. But in recent times the American Dream has come under attack.

The ability of government to acquire private property by eminent domain was traditionally limited to clear-cut cases where the property was essential to a broadly beneficial public projects such as building a school, library, road, or infrastructure like water lines or parts of the electric power grid.

But a few years ago, governments began to abuse the power of eminent domain, seizing private property and giving it to developers and other entities so they could build shopping centers or other facilities that would increase the tax base. In the infamous Kelo decision, by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court said that's just fine.

But I say it is illegitimate and unjust, an example of legalized theft.
Here in Georgia, as a Republican State Senator, I took the lead in the fight against the abuse of eminent domain for private development interests by introducing a legislation that would have tightly defined the conditions under which private property could be taken, with fair compensation, for public use.

Unfortunately, the Governor and his legislative leaders succeeded in passing a constitutional amendment that gave the appearance of preventing eminent domain abuse, but, by allowing the General Assembly to define "public use," it provided a gaping legal loophole that poses a serious future threat to private property.

In commenting on the Georgia constitutional amendment, the Institute for Justice--a nationally recognized public interest law firm that works on behalf of individuals whose most basic rights are denied by the government--said, "Unfortunately, the constitutional amendment was only a minor procedural requirement that before eminent domain can be used for redevelopment, it must be voted on by elected officials…. The point of constitutional protections is to prevent citizens' rights from being voted away."

As Governor, I will use the full power of the executive office to make sure that citizens' property rights are not voted away. I will work to eliminate the current legal loophole and to protect private property rights permanently.


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