- Blight designations are now property-by-property and an area can only be condemned if 75 percent of the individual properties are blighted.
- Blight must be proved by clear and convincing evidence.
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|House File 2351
Sponsored by: State Senator Bob Brunkhorst
Status: Governor’s veto overridden on July 14, 2006.
Even in the wake of the most reviled Supreme Court decision in decades, reform is not always an easy task. Iowa deserves special credit for the perseverance it showed in trying to impose restrictions on eminent domain abuse.
Convinced that it had an obligation to show greater respect for Iowans’ constitutional rights, the Iowa General Assembly passed House File 2351 (2006) by a vote of 89-5 in the House and 43-6 in the Senate. The bill made it more difficult for government officials to label properties “blighted,” and thereby to pursue eminent domain projects that would benefit private developers. Incredibly, Iowa’s governor vetoed the bill, claiming that it provided too much protection for individuals’ rights. Rather than agreeing to the governor’s watered-down version of the bill, the General Assembly met in a special session and overrode the veto with a 90-8 vote in the House and a 41-8 vote in the Senate, thus securing important reforms to protect the state’s citizens from eminent domain abuse. It was the first vote in Iowa to override a governor’s veto since John F. Kennedy was in the White House.
While not perfect, HF 2351 represents an important improvement in Iowa’s protection of property rights. The new law changes how blight designations are used and requires a property-by-property assessment. Only when 75 percent of the properties in an Urban Renewal Project are blighted can the remaining non-blighted property be condemned. The new law also requires the government to prove blight by clear and convincing evidence, a significant shift away from the unthinking deference that has so long marked courts’ consideration of blight designations by municipalities.
The Iowa General Assembly has shown its willingness to pursue these important reforms, even when opposed by the governor. Future legislative sessions must see these efforts continue so that Iowans may enjoy even more meaningful safeguards for their property rights.