Louisiana Ratifies Eminent Domain Reform

Constitutional Amendment Provides Increased Property Protection

CONTACT: John Kramer; Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320
October 4, 2006

Arlington, Va.—On Saturday, September 30, Louisianans voted into law Constitutional Amendment 5, providing home and business owners across the state with increased protection against eminent domain abuse by prohibiting local governments from condemning private property merely to generate taxes or jobs.  Also, the amendment ensures that the State’s blight laws can only be applied for the removal of a genuine threat to public health and safety caused by a particular property. 

“We applaud the people of Louisiana for protecting their property from tax-hungry officials and land-hungry developers,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Scott Bullock, who has argued against eminent domain abuse before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “There is no doubt the rebuilding of New Orleans is on everybody’s mind and this amendment strikes the right balance.  The government can take property that actually endangers public health and safety but is prohibited from seizing ordinary homes and businesses for grand planning schemes that would involve the wholesale transfer of property to private developers.” 

The amendment does not address the power of municipalities to use eminent domain for the benefit of industrial parks as that is specifically permitted in another provision of the Louisiana Constitution.  However, it does provide that a person’s home cannot be taken for an industrial park or even for a public port facility.

“The people of Louisiana understand that eminent domain abuse is wrong,” said IJ Senior Attorney Bert Gall.  “The passage of this Amendment is part of a national backlash against the outrageous Kelo decision.”

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Kelo v. City of New London that local governments may take private property merely for economic development, adding that states are free to provide stronger protections for property owners.  Numerous polls conducted in the wake of Kelo show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose eminent domain abuse and, since Kelo, 31 states have enacted eminent domain reform. 

Louisiana is the first state to vote on a post-Kelo constitutional amendment to restrict eminent domain abuse.  Passing 55 percent to 45 percent, the amendment goes into effect 20 days after the Governor offers a formal proclamation, which is expected in the coming days. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate missed a key opportunity to provide federal protection by failing to send the House’s strong eminent domain reform bill, HR 4128, to the President, which would have prohibited federal funding for eminent domain abuse.

IJ President and General Counsel Chip Mellor concluded, “This is a great moment for home and small business owners.  Amendment 5 will go a long way to secure the sanctity of home, business and farm ownership throughout the Pelican State.”