IJ to Iowa Legislature: Override Governor

Important Eminent Domain Reform
Protects Private Property

PRESS RELEASE: June 15, 2006

John Kramer
Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320

Arlington, Va.—With a noon Friday deadline approaching, key Iowa legislators continue their effort to garner support for a special legislative session to override Governor Tom Vilsack’s June 2 veto of House File 2351, important eminent domain reform. The bill, which passed both legislative houses with overwhelming, bipartisan support, aimed to reform the state’s eminent domain laws by prohibiting local governments from taking homes and small businesses for economic development. Municipalities would still be allowed to use eminent domain for traditional public uses, like roads and utilities. HF 2351 also increased the government’s burden to condemn non-blighted properties in so-called “blighted” areas.

“Governor Vilsack’s veto leaves hardworking citizens in danger of having their land taken and given to somebody else,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court. “The governor’s claim that the bill is too protective of private property rights and would hurt Iowa’s economy is nonsense. The legislation is modest but important reform, and already reflects the consensus approach taken by the legislature in crafting the bill.”

HF 2351 passed the House by a vote of 89-11 and the Senate by 43-7. The legislators working to override the veto say 67 House votes and 34 Senate votes are required.

“Judging by the votes on the legislation, the Legislature should have well over the required number of votes to override the Governor’s veto,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner. “Despite what Vilsack claims, the Legislature recognized that economic development can and will happen without eminent domain, that Iowans desperately need protection against abusive condemnations, and that this new law would have done just that.”

In Kelo, the nation’s highest court permitted the use of eminent domain for economic development. Since the June 23, 2005 decision, legislators in 47 states have introduced, considered or passed legislation limiting the government’s eminent domain powers in instances of private use. Twenty-three governors have signed legislation into law. Iowa joins Arizona and New Mexico as the only states whose governors vetoed eminent domain reform.

Steven Anderson, the coordinator of the Castle Coalition, IJ’s grassroots group, concluded, “The bottom line is that a special legislative session and an override of the governor’s veto is the only way to protect Iowans from eminent domain for private use. Let’s hope they do what’s right.”