Wyoming

  • Redefines “public purpose” to mean the “possession, occupation and enjoyment of the land by a public entity.”
  • No transfer of property to private entities, unless condemned for “public health and safety,” determined parcel-by-parcel.
50 State Report Card 50 State Report Card Grade

50 State Report Card: Tracking Eminent Domain Reform Legislation since Kelo

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Read: Wyoming Chapter
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Current Abuses Bills
House Bill 124
Sponsored by: State Joint Agriculture, Public Lands, and Water Resources Interim Committee
Status: Signed into law on February 28, 2007.

Overview

The State Legislature was not in regular session in 2006. The Joint Agriculture Committee pledged to work toward two bills in 2007 that provide more protections for private property owners: one would focus on “urban” issues and one on rural issues.

House Bill 124 was one of the promised committee bills, but the reforms were incredibly meager. As drafted, the bill only increased notice and required the government to make an attempt at “good faith negotiations” before condemning private property, and early amendments seemed to weaken the bill further. However, property owners from across the state showed up at the Capitol to demand protection and their voices were heard, and Wyoming now has significantly stronger reform.

State, counties, and municipal corporations now may condemn only for public purpose, defined as “the possession, occupation and enjoyment of the land by a public entity.” Private transfer is prohibited except for “condemnation for the purpose of protecting the public health and safety,” and that condemnation is on a property-by-property basis. Municipalities are no longer allowed to delegate away condemnation authority, and if condemned property has not experienced “substantial use” ten years after the taking, the former owner may apply to the court to repurchase the property for the amount of the original compensation.

While this new law is a dramatic improvement, Wyoming property rights remain at risk under the state’s water, mining, and common carrier exceptions unique to the state, if not the West. Additionally, a constitutional amendment is needed to ensure property rights protection for generations to come.