- The state constitution has an extremely weak definition of public use and the courts have made it even worse.
- Any reform in the legislation was voided by its exemption for “public and private uses … provided in the constitution.”
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|House Bill 555
Sponsored by: House Committee on State Affairs
Status: Signed into law on March 21, 2006.
Unlike many states, Idaho has relatively weak constitutional language regarding the property rights guaranteed its citizens. While the Idaho Constitution does require that condemned property be taken for a public use, it also says “any … use necessary to the complete development of the material resources of the state, or the preservation of the health of its inhabitants, is hereby declared to be a public use.” To the detriment of property owners in the state, the Idaho Supreme Court has further weakened property rights by adopting an interpretation of public use that is not tied to—and therefore not restrained by—any traditional understanding.
In 2006, the Idaho Legislature passed House Bill 555, which ostensibly adds to the state’s existing law by providing limitations on eminent domain for private parties, urban renewal, or economic development purposes. Unfortunately, the Legislature left several loopholes, including one that allows condemnations for “those public and private uses for which eminent domain is expressly provided in the constitution of the State of Idaho.” Thanks to the aforementioned broad language of the Idaho Constitution and its interpretation by the state supreme court, the door to eminent domain abuse remains wide open.
In the November 2006 election, the state had a citizen initiative, Proposition 2, on the ballot that contained the same meager reforms contained in HB 555, but with the added (and very controversial) element that would have limited regulatory takings. In the absence of meaningful protection against eminent domain abuse and with the added confusion of the regulatory takings measure, the amendment failed to pass.