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Public Statements

Introduction Of The Stopp Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. GOODLATTE. Madam Speaker, 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 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 property 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.

* I completely agree with Justice O'Connor who, in her dissent in the Kelo case, wrote: ``Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings ``for public use'' is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words ``for public use'' from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.''

* For these reasons, I have introduced legislation with Representative STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN to ban all Federal economic development money for a period of two years for any State or local government that uses eminent domain for private economic development purposes.

* The STOPP act also prohibits funding to a State or local government that fails to provide relocation assistance to a person displaced from property by any use of eminent domain for an economic development purpose. Relocation assistance must meet the level and be of the same manner as that required under the Uniform Relocation and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970. The STOPP act also provides landowners with a right to enforce the prohibition of funds under this act.

* 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.

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