Kansas, One of Nation

Further Reform Needed to Close Loophole

PRESS RELEASE: May 19, 2006

John Kramer
Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320

Arlington, Va.—Yesterday, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius signed into law Senate Bill 323, legislation that provides home and business owners across the state with significant protection against eminent domain abuse. The bill, which passed both legislative houses with overwhelming support, 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 unsafe, or when the legislature expressly authorizes the taking. While the bill’s important provisions are not effective until 2007, the reform was desperately needed.

“We commend Kansas lawmakers for giving citizens increased protection against eminent domain abuse,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner. “Kansas has long suffered a terrible reputation as one of the worst eminent domain abusers in the country—because of both its law and court decisions—and this new law will go a long way in repairing that reputation.”

Steven Anderson, coordinator of the Castle Coalition, the Institute for Justice’s nationwide network of activists, added, “Under the new law, municipalities can no longer take people’s homes and businesses for the benefit of a private developer. The Legislature must now finish the job by removing its own authority to take people’s homes, businesses, farms and houses of worship for economic development. By passing this bill, lawmakers have already correctly acknowledged that economic development can and will happen without eminent domain.”

In Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted the use of eminent domain for economic development. Since the June 2005 decision, legislators in 47 states have introduced, considered or passed legislation limiting the government’s eminent domain powers in instances of private use. Kansas is the 20th state to enact reform.

“We’re excited that most property owners in Kansas will finally have the ability to keep what they’ve worked so hard to own,” Anderson concluded. “Once the Legislature closes that last loophole, Kansas will serve as a proud example for the rest of the country.”