- Slum clearance law now requires each property to be evaluated individually and found to be a threat to the public by clear and convincing evidence.
- Property rights protections now found in statute need to be included in the state constitution.
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|Senate Bills 53, 1206, and 1650
Sponsored by: State Senator Christine Kehoe
Senate Bill 1809
The Arizona Legislature responded to Kelo by passing House Bill 2675 (2006), an extremely strong piece of blight reform legislation. The bill would have required a condemning authority to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that a property is maintained in a slum condition, and blight designations could be made only on a property-by-property basis. It also prohibited the use of eminent domain for economic development. Unfortunately, however, the governor vetoed the bill.
But the people of Arizona would not let their governor have the last word when it came to protecting their liberties. Proposition 207 was filed in response to the veto and the statutory reform was reborn through citizen initiative. The language, very similar to HB 2675, appeared on the ballot last fall and passed by a substantial margin.
The Private Property Rights Protection Act (§ 12-1136) accomplished many necessary eminent domain reforms. Most importantly, the initiative significantly limited the scope of activities that could qualify as a public use. Rather than creating an exhaustive list of approved uses, Arizona’s new definition of public use simply requires that the general public retain “possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the land.” With this approach the statute encompasses the traditional uses of eminent domain, with allowances for acquisition of property to handle utilities, unsafe structures, or abandoned properties, but not for benefits from economic development. The next step is to include these protections in the state constitution.
Proposition 207 did not amend Arizona’s Slum Clearance and Redevelopment chapter, so extremely broad definitions of “blighted area” and “slum area” were not changed. But after the recent reforms, all eminent domain actions now require a judicial determination that the use is, in fact, “public.” In the case of slum clearance and redevelopment, the government must present clear and convincing evidence that each and every targeted parcel poses a direct threat to the public, such that eminent domain is necessary to eliminate the threat. With these new protections, as well as heightened compensation requirements, the citizens of Arizona have fought back against eminent domain abuse and can worry less about developers and city officials kicking them out of their homes.