The Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London has certainly hit some political nerves. This past week bills were introduced in both houses of Congress to limit eminent domain power. (See S. 1313 and H.R. 3135).
The language used to achieve this purpose is very brief:
(a) In General- The power of eminent domain shall be available only for public use.
(b) Public Use- In this Act, the term `public use' shall not be construed to include economic development.
(c) Application- This Act shall apply to--
(1) all exercises of eminent domain power by the Federal Government; and
(2) all exercises of eminent domain power by State and local government through the use of Federal funds.
To the extent that state or local governments are not using federal funds, then this bill will apparently not provide protection. Similar legislation would be needed at the state level to achieve protection from the takings power. Alternatively, as I have previously suggested, the state could simply require that such takings for public use be at a multiple of FMV to compensate the owner for the forced taking. In this way, the politicians who seek to pursue economic development plans have to pay up for the privilege – and hopefully their constituents will hold them accountable for foolish uses of public funds. (Then again, we don’t have such a good record on that account given what our government sees fit to fund.)