- A new, strong constitutional amendment fortifies good, recent caselaw and means property rights are safer than they have been in decades.
- Blight must now be proved on an individual property basis.
Michigan is an example of a state that was not content to rest on its laurels. Just three years ago the Michigan Supreme Court set the standard for the rest of the country by emphatically rejecting the idea (which, ironically, the same court had championed in its earlier Poletown decision) that private commercial development is a constitutionally permissible justification for taking one private person’s property and transferring it to another private party. In the wake of Kelo, however, the Michigan Legislature determined to act decisively to ensure that Michiganders would not have to worry about their rights.
The result of the Legislature’s efforts was Senate Joint Resolution E, an amendment to the state constitution that prohibits “the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.” Moreover, the amendment changed so-called blight law within the state, requiring blight to be determined on a parcel-by-parcel basis and requiring the government to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that a property’s condition satisfies the definition of blight established by law. These were significant, important changes to the existing laws in Michigan.
The resolution passed the House by a vote of 106-0 and the Senate by 31-6. After being signed by the governor, the constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot for the November 2006 election, where more than 80 percent of Michigan voters approved the amendment.
In addition to the constitutional amendment, Michigan’s Legislature also adopted a number of bills that address condemnation procedure and compensation. House Bills 5817, 5818, and 5819 raised the cap on state-provided moving expenses for individuals (but not businesses), allowed low-income individuals to recover attorney’s fees following an unsuccessful condemnation challenge, and outlined the process of surrendering property. House Bills 5820 and 5821 outlined procedures for determining and delivering compensation.
House Bill 5060 and companion Senate Bill 693 mirrored the language of the proposed constitutional amendment by altering the definition of public use to exclude economic development.
Finally, House Bills 6638 and 6639 set forth specific criteria that must be met for a property to be declared “blighted.”