U.S. Senate Eminent Domain Reform Deadline Tomorrow

Time is Running Out For Federal Government to Stop Funding Abuse

CONTACT: John Kramer; Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320
September 29, 2006

Arlington, Va.—During the past month, the U.S. Senate has protected its pork, but so far has failed to protect the people, homes and small businesses that are routinely threatened by eminent domain abuse.

More than 10 months ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4128 (the Private Property Protection Act of 2005), a measure that would counter the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo v. City of New London decision, which allows governments to use eminent domain to take property in hopes of increasing tax revenue. The bill would deny for two fiscal years economic development funds to state and local governments that use eminent domain for private economic development. The measure passed the House last November by an historic and bipartisan 376-38 vote, but has been held up in the Judiciary Committee. Hoping to bypass that committee, Senator James Inhofe introduced S. 3873, which mirrors the House bill—but that too has been stonewalled, this time by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Unless the Senate takes action, eminent domain reform will likely die in Congress this year.

Ending eminent domain abuse is one of the most universally popular issues nationwide among voters. (See polls from across the nation at: http://www.castletrans.wpengine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=43&Itemid=143.) In every poll taken, the public is against eminent domain for private use with numbers that start in the 70th percentile and rise up to the high 90s in polls conducted by MSNBC, CNN and others.

“This issue cuts across party lines, state borders and socioeconomic levels,” said Steven Anderson, Castle Coalition coordinator, the Institute for Justice’s grassroots project seeking eminent domain reform. “The public hates eminent domain for private gain. The House demonstrated that it understands the issue when it passed eminent domain reform. The Senate needs to pass eminent domain reform as well.”

“Nationwide, 30 states have enacted legislation to better protect home and small business owners from the abuse of eminent domain, but the federal government continues to fund it,” said Dana Berliner, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners in Kelo before the Supreme Court. “The Senate needs to pass eminent domain reform before it’s too late.”

At the beginning of the month, the Castle Coalition launched a “countdown clock” on its website to show how little time remained for the Senate to cut off federal funding of eminent domain abuse. The clock will expire tomorrow [NOTE TO EDITOR: Friday, September 29]—the last day on which the Senate meets before it convenes again only for its lame duck, post-election session. It is still possible that the Senate can pass eminent domain reform during that ten-day session, although it will need to act quickly.

“We’re hopeful that the Senate will realize just how important this issue is to all Americans,” Berliner added. “The House passed a balanced bill that prevents taxpayers’ dollars from being used to evict their neighbors while allowing federal money for traditional public uses, like military bases and post offices. Your security in your home, business or church should not depend on your ZIP code—if the Senate can’t pass reform by the time it recesses, we hope, for the sake of all Americans, that they’ll do so when they return in November.”