KELO Alert!

The Spectator has a post about a change in the housing mortgage bailout bill. The bill's language:
No funds under this title may be used in conjunction with property taken by eminent domain, unless eminent domain is employed only for a public use, except that, for purposes of this section, public use shall not be construed to include economic development that primarily benefits any private entity.

What the Spectator says:
This new language in the House bill would give property-grabbing bureaucrats an easy way around the supposed prohibition on using eminent domain. All they would have to do is take property for any reason that Kelo allows, then come up with another project for the specific use of that property.

If land were grabbed for general economic development, as Kelo permits, and then a new project were created for a city to sell this land to developers, this would likely not be a violation of the House bill. After all, the new project isn't "seeking" to use eminent domain, it is merely using land that had already been confiscated.

It is typical for governments to change the "project" or purpose of land use many times once it has been taken through eminent domain. In fact, this was the case in Kelo.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted in her eloquent dissent describing the shifting justifications for the land grab in New London, Connecticut: "Parcel 4A is slated, mysteriously, for 'park support.' At oral argument, counsel for respondents conceded the vagueness of this proposed use and offered that the parcel might eventually be used for parking."

The Senate language isn't ironclad, but its broad ban on funds being used "in conjunction with" eminent domain for economic development would at least put some necessary burdens in using these new funds to help confiscate land.

All in all, if this new language is what ultimately passes, there will be virtually nothing stopping states and localities from using the federal housing grants to help themselves to confiscate housing.
The Spec has the link to the original bill. I'm no lawyer (too often, I interpret governmentese by the common sense of the words - EXACTLY the wrong thing to do), but I think the bill is sufficiently ambiguous that a call or letter to your House reps is indicated.


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