Congressional Leaders Meet Susette Kelo To Discuss Eminent Domain Reform

With Strong Bipartisan Support Already in Place, Could Eminent Domain Reform Finally Pass the Senate?

CONTACT: John Kramer; Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320
November 15, 2006

Arlington, Va.—The woman whose fight to save her home focused the nation’s outrage against eminent domain abuse will meet tomorrow [Thursday, November 16, 2006] with a bipartisan list of U.S. Senators and Representatives and their staff in the hope of finally passing federal eminent domain reform.

Susette Kelo (joined by Dana Berliner from the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo in her fight to save her New London, Conn., home) is scheduled to meet on Thursday, November 16, 2006, with U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell as well as U.S. Representatives Maxine Waters, James Sensenbrenner and Henry Bonilla, and counsels from the offices of Senators Harry Reid and Bill Frist.

More than a year ago, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the “Private Property Protection Act of 2005” (H.R. 4128), a measure that would counter the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo v. City of New London decision, which allows governments to use eminent domain to take property in hopes of increasing tax revenue. The bill would deny for two fiscal years federal economic development funds to state and local governments that use eminent domain for private development. The measure passed the House last November by an historic and bipartisan 376-38 vote, but has been held up in the Senate Judiciary Committee since then. Hoping to bypass that committee, Senator James Inhofe introduced S. 3873, which mirrors the House bill—but that too has been stonewalled, this time by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Unless the Senate takes action before the adjournment of this congressional term, eminent domain reform will die in Congress.

Representatives John Conyers, Sensenbrenner, Waters and Bonilla led efforts to pass eminent domain reform in the House. Senator John Cornyn led efforts to pass similar legislation in the Senate.

“With the new bipartisan spirit on Capitol Hill, there is no issue that has united voters across the nation more than eminent domain reform,” said Berliner. In the past election, 10 eminent domain ballot measures restricting government from taking private property and giving it to private entities passed, all by wide margins. In the nine states with ballot measures limiting eminent domain by addressing “public use,” all nine passed overwhelmingly. “This month’s election, combined with earlier reforms passed by the states, raises to 34 the number of states that have limited eminent domain abuse,” Berliner said. “Let’s hope the Senate at last recognizes how much the public wants this reform and passes real restrictions on the use of eminent domain for private development.”