House unanimously passes bill that addresses 13-year-old Kelo decision
In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled, in the Kelo v. City of New London decision, that eminent domain could be used to seize private property from one owner and give it to another in the name of "economic development." It remains one of the most controversial decisions the court has made this century.
Yesterday, Congress belatedly addressed the troubling issues raised by the decision by passing the Private Property Rights Protection Act. As Ed Morrissey at Hot Air points out, no major media outlets covered this seminal issue regarding the rights of citizens to be secure in their property.
Amazingly, not one major media outlet picked up on this, not even to note that it took thirteen years for Congress to address the issue. It might not have gone far even now had it not been for renewed interest in the case from the recent independent film Little Pink House, starring Catherine Keener as Susette Kelo and Jeanne Tripplehorn and produced by Ted Balaker, formerly of Reason.
It's tough to understand the indifference. The House vote didn't have much drama to it, but the issue directly aims at the relationship we have with government and the nature of private property, a core right recognized in the Constitution. Kelo perverted that relationship, putting everyone's property rights hostage to politicians who want to hand off spoils to bigger entities. The case prompted some states to step in and redefine eminent domain to prevent another New London abuse, but Congress has remained relatively passive about it until now.
There are many justifiable instances where the needs of the community might be best served by employing eminent domain. The argument isn't if states and local governments have the right to invoke eminent domain, but rather the overly broad justification used by the court to allow a private developer to seize someone else's property.
Seizing property to build or improve a road or expand an airport that benefits the entire community might meet a reasonable standard where eminent domain can be used. But in Kelo, only a few private developers benefited. That the court deliberately weakened private property rights has been a stain on its reputation to uphold our most precious constitutional rights.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner was the primary mover behind the bill:
To combat this expansion of power, H.R. 1689 would make any state or locality that uses the economic development justification for eminent domain ineligible from receiving federal economic development funds for two years. This creates a major incentive for governments to respect the private property rights of its citizens.
Additionally, the legislation bars the federal government from exercising eminent domain powers for the purposes of economic development.
Democrats would dearly love to weaken the idea of private property rights because they get in the way of government redistributing wealth. Many on the far left see private property as wicked and the root of all evil in the capitalist system.
Needless to say, our rights will be in danger if the "democratic socialists" ever achieve real power.