February 15, 2006

Eminent Domain Bills Before the Legislature

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are now at least three bills before the Rhode Island House that would either ban or regulate the government’s ability to use its power of eminent domain to take private property and give it to a new owner to increase a tax base and/or promote economic development.

1. The first version, House bill 6725, introduced by Representative Matthew McHugh (D-Charlestown/New Shoreham/South Kingstown/Westerly), is a straightforward ban on state or local government use of eminent domain to...

...acquire private residential property and then transfer it to a private developer for the purpose of improving tax revenue, expanding the tax base or for the sole purpose of promoting economic development.
H6725 is almost identical to the eminent domain reform ordinance introduced by Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey at the local level.

2. The second version, House bill 7151; introduced by Representatives James Davey (R-Cranston), Carol Mumford (R-Cranston/Scituate), John Loughlin (R-Little Compton/Portsmouth/Tiverton), John Savage (R-East Providence), and David Caprio (D-Narragansett/South Kingstown) takes H6725 and tries to close any loopholes, e.g. explicitly applying the law to “quasi-public corporations, boards, [and] authorities”, banning takings not just of "private residential property", but of any property, specifically banning takings for the purpose of “private retail office, commercial, industrial, or residential development”, etc. H7151 also introduces an exception for public utilities.

3. The third version, House bill 7350; introduced by Representatives Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Hopkinton/Westerly), Peter Lewiss (D-Westerly), Elaine Coderre (D-Pawtucket), William San Bento (D-North Providence/Pawtucket), and Peter Kilmartin (D-Pawtucket) says that before the government seizes property to promote economic development, it must prepare a report first. OK, it also says that 150% of market value must be paid to displaced homeowners. Still, H7350 locks into law the principle that the government can take private property from one owner and give it to another to foster economic development.

Don’t let Rhode Island legislators get away with claiming that support for H7350 is support for real eminent domain reform.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Kudos to Mayor Laffey who has led the charge on this critical issue. The Cranston City Council unanimously adopted the Mayors Kelo Resolution last July. I'm glad to see that the State legislature is following Mayor Laffey's lead!

Anyone know where Senator Chafee is? No-where to be found as our good Senator opposes reforming the Endangered Species Act which allows the Federal Gov't dangerous eminent domain powers, much more draconian than the Kelo decision allows.

Funny how silent the Senator is on protecting one of our most important inalienable rights.

Posted by: Larry Dallas at February 16, 2006 1:19 PM