Indiana Enacts Common Sense Eminent Domain Reform

PRESS RELEASE: March 27, 2006

John Kramer
Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320

Arlington, Va.—On Friday, March 24, 2006, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law House Bill 1010, legislation that provides home and business owners across the state with meaningful protection against eminent domain abuse.  The bill, which sailed through both legislative houses with overwhelming support, redefines “public use” and provides objective criteria for the acquisition of property in other situations.  It is the eighth state since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Kelo v. City of New London last summer to address eminent domain abuse.

“We commend Indiana lawmakers for passing genuine, meaningful reform,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Scott Bullock, who argued Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “Indiana has long been recognized as the Crossroads of America, and we hope that this legislation gives lawmakers nationwide an example of the kind of common sense reform that can happen throughout the country.”

Steven Anderson, coordinator of the Castle Coalition, added, “Indiana understands what defenders of eminent domain abuse still do not—that Kelo created a big problem for the states to fix, that eminent domain is not necessary for economic development, and that every home, business and place of worship needed protection against condemnation for private gain.  The Legislature, starting with Representative Dave Wolkins, has helped ensure that private property across the state is safe from the scourge of eminent domain abuse.”

In Kelo, the nation’s highest court permitted the use of eminent domain for economic development.  But the Court noted, “Nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power.”  Since then, Legislatures in 47 states and the U.S. Congress have introduced, considered or passed legislation aiming to limit the government’s eminent domain powers in instances of private use.

“Americans are energized to stop eminent domain abuse now more than ever, because the issue literally touches home,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner, author of Public Power, Private Gain, the first-ever report examining eminent domain abuse on a state-by-state basis.  In just a five-year period (1998 to 2002), the Institute for Justice documented 55 threatened or filed condemnations in Indiana and more than 10,000 instances of eminent domain for private use nationwide.

Since Kelo, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Idaho have also enacted laws addressing eminent domain reform.  The governors of West Virginia, Wisconsin and Kentucky are expected to sign eminent domain reform bills within the coming weeks.  Similar legislation is being considered in 28 other states.

Anderson concluded, “We expect to see eminent domain reform in a number of other states before legislative sessions come to a close.  Let’s hope they follow Indiana’s lead and enact real reform.”

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