Private ownership of property is vital to our freedom and our prosperity, and is one of the most fundamental principles embedded in our Constitution. The Founders realized the importance of property rights when they placed in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, the requirement 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 narrow 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London was a step in the wrong direction. This controversial ruling expanded the ability of state and local governments to exercise eminent domain powers to seize private property under the guise of "economic development" when the "public use" is something as non-public as a new housing development or shopping center that would generate more tax revenues 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 development.
For these reasons, I am a strong supporter of legislation which seeks to limit the negative impact of the Kelo decision. The bipartisan Private Property Rights Protection Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives, prohibits all federal economic development funds for a period of two 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 legislation allows state and local governments to cure violations by giving the property back to the original owner. Furthermore, this bill specifically grants landowners the right to use appropriate legal remedies to enforce the protections provided in the bill.
The Private Property Rights Protection Act 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.
I am committed to the principles of private property and limited government. 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.