Rein in eminent domain


Without governments power of eminent domain, the nations interstate highway system would involve a lot more zigs and zags than it does today. At least two schools in Franklin County would be located elsewhere had it not been for the governments ability to take property with full and fair compensation to the owner for public purposes.

But many Americans were justifiably shocked last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional the use of eminent domain in projects involving private development.

The court ruled that the city of New London, Conn., was within its right of eminent domain to condemn houses and then turn the property over to a private business for a development that would pay more taxes to the city than the owners of the houses had.

Thats an expansion of eminent domain well beyond the bounds ever contemplated.

Several states responded by passing laws specifically targeted at the courts ruling. The Kentucky General Assembly has done the same.

A bill passed unanimously in the Senate last week and again unanimously in the House Monday bans the use of eminent domain to take property that is then turned over the private owners for economic development purposes. The Senate added an amendment to House Bill 508 to exempt property taken when it is financed with state or federal road construction money.

The House agreed to that amendment.

The considerable power of government at any level should never be imposed on property owners for the benefit of private business, even if the result will mean higher taxes to government. The possibilities of abuse and outright fraud are obvious as cities look to replace older neighborhoods of single-family homes with expensive high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums.

In the rush of the final days of a legislative session, it is too easy for good legislation to get lost in the crush. Were pleased House Bill 508 is not one of them.

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