On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Kelo v. City of New London. In Kelo, the Court addressed the city's condemnation of private property to implement its redevelopment plan aimed at invigorating a depressed economy. By 5-4, the Court held that the condemnations satisfied the Fifth Amendment requirement that property condemnations be for a "public use," notwithstanding that the property, as part of the plan, might be turned over to private developers.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to compensate the owner of property taken by eminent domain, stating that no “private property shall be taken for public use, without just compensation.” State constitutions contain similar provisions requiring that the property owner receive compensation for property taken by the state.
Soon after the Kelo decision, Congressman Scott took action to curtail the effects of the decision.
Congressman Scott voted for House Resolution 340, which expresses disagreement with the majority opinion in Kelo. Further H.Res 340 expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that state and local governments: (1) should only execute the power of eminent domain for the public good; (2) must always justly compensate affected individuals in accordance with the Fifth Amendment; (3) should never use eminent domain to advantage one private party over another; and (4) should not construe Kelo as justification to abuse the power of eminent domain. H.Res 340 passed the House by a vote of 365 – 33 on June 30, 2005.
Congressman Scott cosponsored and voted for H.R. 4128, the "Sensenbrenner bill," which passed the House on November 3, 2005. Its key provision prohibits states and their political subdivisions from using eminent domain to transfer private property to other private parties for economic development. A state that violates the prohibition is ineligible to receive federal economic development funds for two fiscal years following a judicial determination of violation. An amendment, inserted into an FY2006 appropriations bill by Senator Bond, is now enacted law. Like H.R. 4128, it attaches a condemnation-restricting condition to federal funds.
Congressman Scott also cosponsored H.R. 3405, the Strengthening the Ownership of Private Property Act, also known as the STOPP Act. This measure would prohibit the use of federal economic development funds by any state or locality that uses the power of eminent domain to obtain property for private commercial development or that fails to pay relocation costs to persons displaced for economic development purposes. H.R. 3405 is pending action on the House floor.
Congressman Scott participated in the first congressional hearing on the Kelo decision. On September 7, 2005, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to discuss H.R. 3405, the STOPP Act.
Congressman Scott will continue to support legislation that curtails the power of eminent domain in an effort to protect private property rights. In addition, you may want to contact your local government, which may have already taken action to ensure that it will protect private property rights.
Speeches and Floor Statements
Congressman Scott's Statement on the Private Property Rights Protection Act