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Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005

Location: Washington, DC

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


Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Eminent Domain Property Act offered by my colleague from Wisconsin, Chairman SENSENBRENNER. This bipartisan-supported bill was introduced in response to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo vs. City of New London, which condoned the use of eminent domain to take private property and transfer it to another private entity for the stated purpose of economic development.

Mr. Chairman, the Kelo decision put homeowners, small business owners, and farmers all across the country at risk of losing their property to this expansion of the government's eminent domain powers.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows local government to use eminent domain powers to condemn private property. The only requirement is that owners are given ``just compensation'' and that the land in question goes to a ``public use.'' Traditionally, the ``public use'' requirement in eminent domain cases allowed the local government to condemn property to build railroads, or bridges, or highways. But in a 1954 case, Berman v. Parker, the Supreme Court found that ``public use'' could include condemning blighted neighborhoods to build better ones as a means to raise more tax revenue. But, whereas the Berman case was predicated on the property being `blighted,' the Kelo decision goes further down the slippery slope and rests solely on whether the condemnation would improve tax revenues.

I would assert, as Justice Scalia did in the Kelo case, that any conceivable commercial development that replaces a church, house, or farm will produce more tax revenue, and that once condemned land is passed off to private developers, it is no longer going to ``public use.'' That is why I strongly believe Congress must act to limit States' eminent domain actions if the only requirement is that the proposed project improves the tax base.

The Eminent Domain Property Act of 2005 will prohibit the Federal Government from using eminent domain for private economic development and also prohibits States from using eminent domain for private economic development if the State receives any Federal economic development funding. A violation by any State will result with the State being ineligible for a Federal economic development for two years. By denying municipalities all Federal development funds when they abuse their eminent domain authority, H.R. 4128 provides a strong economic disincentive to prevent municipalities and local governments from taking private property for the purpose of private economic development.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman, my district in western Wisconsin is largely rural and dependent on the agricultural economy of its many small family farmers. As the sense of Congress portion of this legislation points out, the unfortunate truth is that agricultural lands are particularly vulnerable to the abuse of eminent domain power. Agricultural lands tend to have a lower fair market value than surrounding commercial and residential properties, making them a prime target for growing communities.

It is hard enough, for our struggling farmers who are facing softening commodity prices and weather related disasters, to also have to contend with losing their way of life so that others can have yet another shopping mall.

Mr. Chairman, I commend my colleague, Chairman SENSENBRENNER on crafting this bipartisan legislation and I urge it's adoption and support.


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