- The legislation strengthened the definition of public use and the criteria for condemnations.
- Unfortunately, an exception for certified technology parks means economic development is still prioritized over property rights.
In an effort to make sure that Indiana’s citizens would not have to fear the same kind of eminent domain abuse perpetrated in New London, Connecticut, the Indiana General Assembly acted quickly to create a state commission to study the use of eminent domain and ways of eliminating abuse. When all was said and done, the Legislature adopted House Bill 1010 (2006), which provides meaningful protection against abuse. Thanks to these concerted efforts, Indiana’s reforms now provide lawmakers nationwide an example of the kind of common sense reform that can and should happen throughout the country.
House Bill 1010, which sailed through both legislative houses with overwhelming support, redefines public use and provides objective criteria for the acquisition of property in most situations. These steps are vitally important, because most abuses of eminent domain are enabled by standards for public use and blight that leave local governments ample room to craft their own definitions, which many courts have been hesitant to overrule. By clearly stating when eminent domain may and may not be used, the Indiana General Assembly has given the state’s property owners a significant measure of security against the unholy alliance of tax-hungry municipalities and land-hungry developers.
While this bill goes a long way toward preventing eminent domain abuse, there is still some room for improvement. Importantly, the legislature allowed an exception for certified technology parks, meaning that there are still ways for the state legally to take private property for another private party’s benefit. This is a loophole that should be closed. And, as always, it is important to remember that statutory protections are not as permanent as constitutional ones. If Indiana is serious about forever guarding the fundamental rights of its citizens, the General Assembly should introduce a constitutional amendment to restrict any future legislature from changing the protections in this bill.