While Virginia state legislators are talking about introducing bills banning certain types of eminent domain land acquisitions by the state and its localities, 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte and a bi-partisan group of his colleagues has introduced a federal bill on the topic.
Goodlatte introduced a bill called the Strengthening the Ownership of Private Property (STOPP) Act, H.R. 4288,with Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD)and co-sponsors Representatives Allen Boyd (D-FL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
The legislation would cuts off all federal economic development aid to state or local governments that abuse their eminent domain power by seizing private property for private development purposes. It was introduced in response to the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. City of New London, which gave local governments broad eminent domain power to seize private property from one party and give it to another.
The STOPP Act passed the House of Representatives in the 109th Congress by an vote of 376-38.
In Goodlatte’s own district, there has been a high-profile case of eminent domain that has caused considerable controversy. The case pits the Roanoke Housing and Redevelopment Authority against owners of three acres of property adjacent to Carilion Clinic’s Riverside development.
Says Goodlatte, "The appalling Kelo decision struck a serious blow to a core value of our nation, and has far reaching implications. The Court essentially erased any protection of private property as understood by the Founders of our Nation. As the saying goes, ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have.’"
The Supreme Court's ruling gives local governments broad power to seize property to generate tax revenue. State and local governments can now use eminent domain to take away the property of any individual for nearly any reason, including taking property for the benefit of another individual or corporation. Cities can now bulldoze private citizens' homes to make way for shopping malls or other development.
STOPP will prevent governments from taking property from one private party and giving it to another private party. When abuses occur, the STOPP Act will prohibit localities and states from receiving federal economic assistance on all economic development projects, not just those upon which abuses occur, for two years for each violation.
Goodlatte says, “I believe this legislation is necessary to ensure that our homes, farms, businesses, churches, and other private property will not be bulldozed in abusive land grabs that only benefit private individuals and organization.” While this legislation cracks down hard on private to private transfers, it would not prohibit the use of eminent domain for traditional, purely public purposes such as roads, schools and public utility rights of way.
The STOPP Act has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, on which Congressman Goodlatte serves.
(From press release, staff reports.)