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Public Statements

Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Congressman Sensenbrenner and Congresswoman Waters for introducing 1433, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, to restore vital property rights protections following the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London.

This bipartisan legislation passed the House during the 109th Congress by a vote of 376 38 with 99 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats present voting in favor of final passage. Unfortunately, the bill was never voted on in the Senate. Today, over 6 years later, the Kelo decision continues to call out for congressional action.

Our Founders realized the fundamental importance of property rights. Property rights protections are enshrined throughout the Constitution, including in the Fifth Amendment, which provides that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.

Despite these protections, in Kelo the Supreme Court held that the government may take private property from one owner and transfer it to another for private economic development. The dissenting Justices sharply criticized the Court's decision, writing that the result of the majority opinion was:

Effectively to delete the words ``for public use'' from the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. The government now has license to transfer property from those with few resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.

This legislation essentially reverses this result and prohibits State and local governments that receive Federal economic development funds from abusing eminent domain for private economic development. It also prohibits the Federal Government from using eminent domain for economic development purposes.

This bill restores Americans' faith in their ability to build, own, and keep their property without fear of the government taking their homes, farms, or businesses to give to other people. It tells commercial developers that they should seek to obtain property through private negotiation, not by public force.

Too many Americans have lost homes and small businesses to eminent domain abuse, forced to watch as private developers replace them with luxury condominiums and other upscale uses. Local governments often approve the use of eminent domain for private economic development in order to expand their tax basis.

Federal law currently allows Federal funds to be used to support condemnations for the benefit of private developers, which encourages this abuse nationwide.

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