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Waters, Sensenbrenner team up to undo disastrous 2005 Kelo Supreme Court decision.

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House passes bill to fight unfair seizure of private property

Waters, Sensenbrenner team up to undo disastrous 2005 Kelo Supreme Court decision.

State and local governments that use eminent domain to seize private property for economic development would lose federal funding for two years under legislation passed by the House on Tuesday.

The bipartisan bill was authored through an unusual pairing of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and passed on a voice vote.

The measure is a response to the 2005 Supreme Court ruling, Kelo v. City of New London, which held in a 5-4 decision that economic development is considered a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment’s Taking Clause.

The decision justified the government’s condemnation of private property, in order to give it to a private business to redevelop and create a more lucrative tax base. Historically, eminent domain was legally restricted to projects for public use like road and school construction.

As a result of this ruling, the federal government’s power of eminent domain has become almost limitless, providing citizens with few means to protect their property.

“Uncle Sam can condemn one family’s home only because another private entity would pay more tax revenue,” Sensenbrenner said.

Sensenbrenner said his bill would “protect every homeowner and non-profit from being bulldozed in the interest of for-profit land grabs.”
 
“The need to ensure that property rights are returned to all Americans is as strong now as it was when Kelo was decided,” Sensenbrenner said. “Congress must play a pivotal role in reforming the use and abuse of eminent domain.”

The infamous decision by the Supreme Court is also one of the most unpopular. It allowed the Connecticut city to condemn property owned by Susette Kelo and her neighbors, then they gave the property to the Pfizer Corporation to build a new research facility and for the construction of a hotel and condos.

The city and state spent $78 million to bulldoze the property, but the new development never materialized and the property is now vacant.

Waters said the Supreme Court decision gave governments a license to “coerce individuals on behalf of society’s strongest interests.”

“The founders cannot have intended this perverse result – using economic development as a justification for using its power of eminent domain at the expense of the poor and politically weak,” Waters said.

Written By

Audrey Hudson is an award-winning investigative journalist whose enterprise reporting has sparked numerous congressional investigations that led to laws signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She won the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service in 2009 for her report on dangerous drug experiments by the federal government on war veterans, which prompted internal investigations and needed reforms within the Veterans Affairs Department. The report also captured first place for investigative reporting by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a finalist of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences Webby Awards for news and politics. Her breaking stories have been picked up and followed by major news publications and periodicals, including Readers Digest, Washington Monthly, and The Weekly Standard, as well as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Washington Post. With nearly 20 years of experience in Washington as a newspaper reporter and as a Capitol Hill staffer for Western lawmakers, she will now lead Human Events‚?? coverage of energy and environmental issues. A native of Kentucky, Mrs. Hudson has worked inside the Beltway for nearly two decades -- on Capitol Hill as a Senate and House spokeswoman, and most recently at The Washington Times covering Congress, Homeland Security, and the Supreme Court. Audrey‚??s email is AHudson@EaglePub.Co

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