- Condemned property cannot be transferred to a private entity except in very limited circumstances.
- Unfortunately, the prohibition against takings for economic development can be ignored as long as the Legislature expressly authorizes a project.
Kansas is another example of a state that made great strides in 2006 to prevent further abuses of eminent domain for private benefit. Kansas’ governor signed into law Senate Bill 323, which prohibits property from being acquired and transferred from one private owner to another except in certain very narrow circumstances, such as for utilities or in instances where the property has defective title or is objectively unsafe. According to the terms of the statute, blight designations may only be used for unsafe property and must be made on parcel-by-parcel basis.
The reforms were desperately needed in Kansas, where eminent domain had repeatedly been used for private benefit. These shady deals were also justified by the state’s courts, creating a persistent climate of abuse in the state. Now, under the new law, local governments face severe restrictions on their ability to take homes and businesses for the benefit of a private developer.
One area that will need to be addressed in future legislative sessions is a loophole that allows the use of eminent domain for economic development as long as the Legislature itself expressly authorizes the taking. The Kansas Legislature should have this exception removed before it is tempted to put it to use. Once it has done so, the state can stand as a proud example to the rest of the country.