- ‘Tis the Season: London florist creates $4.6 million Christmas wreath
- No tailgating allowed at Super Bowl XLVIII
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend’s shopping jumps to his death
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
- Pope Francis: A nun saved my life
- Israeli P.M. Netanyahu backs out of Mandela funeral
- Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since custody battle
- U.S., British intelligence agents enter online sci-fi world to spy on gamers
- Sarah Palin to host the outdoors show ‘Amazing America’
Alabama limits eminent domain
Alabama yesterday became the first state to enact new protections against local-government seizure of property allowed under a Supreme Court ruling that has triggered an explosive grass-roots counteroffensive across the country.
Republican Gov. Bob Riley signed a bill that was passed unanimously by a special session of the Alabama Legislature, which would prohibit governments from using their eminent-domain authority to take privately owned properties for the purpose of turning them over to retail, industrial, office or residential developers.
Calling the high court's June 23 ruling "misguided" and a "threat to all property owners," Mr. Riley said, "A property rights revolt is sweeping the nation, and Alabama is leading it."
The backlash against the judicial ruling has not received much attention in the national press, although legislative leaders in more than two dozen states have proposed statutes and/or state constitutional amendments to restrict local governments' eminent-domain powers.
Besides Alabama, legislation to ban or restrict the use of eminent domain for private development has been introduced in 16 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.
Legislators have announced plans to introduce eminent-domain bills in seven more states: Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, South Carolina and Wisconsin, and lawmakers in Colorado, Georgia and Virginia plan to act on previously introduced bills.
In addition, public support is being sought for state constitutional prohibitions in several states -- Alabama, California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas.
In an elaborate signing ceremony in the State Capitol's historic Old House Chamber, Mr. Riley said, "Alabamians can rest assured that their homes, farms, business and other private property are safe from being seized by government for a shopping center, or a factory, an office building or new residential development."
The signing immediately won praise from leading property rights advocates who had condemned the ruling and have lobbied state legislatures to block such practices.
"Kudos to Alabama political leaders for taking the first step toward protecting their citizens from eminent-domain abuse," said Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a public policy organization that conducted the first nationwide study of abusive property seizures.
The law came in response to a 5-4 decision by the high court that ruled that the Fifth Amendment's takings clause -- "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" -- did not prevent the city of New London, Conn., from taking Susette Kelo's property for the expressed purpose of private development in order to gain higher tax revenue.
Although the Alabama law that the governor signed yesterday would prohibit such eminent-domain seizures, it contains an exception that would permit takeovers of blighted properties that could be turned over to private interests -- a provision that critics call a loophole for future abuses.
"Alabama's blight law is particularly prone to abuse and must be reformed," Ms. Berliner said. "If legislators close the blight loophole, Alabama will be one of the best states in the country for protecting the rights of home and small business owners."
Jeff Emerson, spokesman for the governor, said yesterday that Mr. Riley would "like to talk to Berliner about this to see how it can be remedied."
The property rights movement, which had been somewhat moribund before the court acted, has spawned what many political strategists expect to be a major issue in the 2006 election cycle.
A number of bills have been introduced in Congress where the issue is winning strong bipartisan support -- from California Rep. Maxine Waters, a liberal Democrat, to Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a conservative Republican.
Polls show unusual unity on strengthening property rights. A Quinnipiac University poll, for example, found that 89 percent of voters in Connecticut want the legislature to limit eminent domain. A University of New Hampshire poll found that 93 percent of state residents were opposed to taking property for private development.
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- Obama pleads for peace in strife-torn Central African Republic
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- MSNBC host: Obamacare a 'wealthy white men' racist word
- WOLF: The president's other Obamacare lies
- MILLER: Brady Campaign says Colorado recalls due to NRA, not grassroots opposition to gun control
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
Crystal Wright is a black conservative woman living in Washington, D.C.
All of the world’s problems, solved on your back porch
Why can’t humans just be free to be humans?
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow