PROPERTY RIGHTS; Full-Speed Ahead

Article excerpt

The splash stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling on the government taking of private property generated tidal waves rather than ripples.

The Vermont Guardian reports lawmakers in 16 states -- including Florida -- have introduced legislation to ban or restrict the use of eminent domain for private development. Lawmakers in seven more states have announced similar intentions, Georgia and two other states are considering previously introduced bills, and efforts for state constitutional amendments are under way in Florida and at least five other states.

And all those efforts are aside from moves in Congress by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and others to offset the court's ruling.

The scrambling is justified.

That 5-4 ruling upheld a lower Connecticut court decision that permitted the city of New London, Conn., to take the private property of several owners to allow a private developer to demolish their homes for offices, a waterfront hotel and condominiums.

City officials said the new development would boost jobs, the tax base and drive more economic development. Opponents noted the properties in question weren't blighted and argued the city wanted to take eminent domain too far.

Eminent domain has long given local, state and federal governments the power to seize private property for public use without an owner's permission, provided there is just compensation. …