Reason: The Limits of Anti-Kelo Legislation

Reason magazine has up a in-depth look at the sorts of legislation states are putting into practice to limit eminent domain and how effective (or ineffective) such legislation is.

Nearly every state legislature has either adopted or considered legislation to curb the use of eminent domain since Kelo, but only 14 have enacted laws that provide significantly increased protections for property rights. Several other states have enacted effective reforms by popular referendum. Seventeen state legislatures have passed laws that purport to restrict eminent domain, but in reality accomplish very little.

Legislators have found many different ways to produce bills that appear to protect property rights without actually doing so. Texas, for example, banned "economic development" takings but continues to permit them under other names, such as "community development." The most common tactic, used in some 16 states' post-Kelo laws, is to allow economic development condemnations to continue under the guise of alleviating "blight." While it may sometimes be desirable to use eminent domain to transform severely dilapidated areas, many states define "blight" so broadly that almost any neighborhood qualifies. A 2003 Nevada Supreme Court decision concluded that downtown Las Vegas was blighted, thus allowing the authorities to condemn some property that local casinos coveted for a new parking lot. A 2001 New York appellate decision held that Times Square was blighted, paving the way for the condemnation of property to build a new headquarters for The New York Times.

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