Tuesday, February 14, 2012 3:28 pm | By Paul Petrick
On February 13, a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at eminent domain abuse sailed through both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. This legislative action qualifies the amendment for a plebiscite vote in November. The amendment would stipulate that compensation resulting from eminent domain seizures include lost profits and access in addition to the value of the underlying real estate. This change has the support of Virginia property rights advocates including Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
If enacted, this constitutional amendment would strike at the heart of the 2005 Supreme Court decision Kelo v. City of New London. This ruling allowed government entities to expropriate private property at the behest of another private interest for the sole purpose of increasing their jurisdiction’s tax base. Politicians often further their electoral interests by saturating voting blocs with public money. Therefore, politicians are always on the lookout for ways to enhance government revenue. The judicial activism displayed by the five justices who ruled against Susette Kelo greatly advanced the cause of rent-seeking politicians at the expense of property owners.
The only silver lining in the Court’s misinterpretation of the Fifth Amendment is that the justices left the states with the ability to enhance property rights protections. The Commonwealth of Virginia’s attempt to correct the damage inflicted on property owners by Kelo is laudable. The International Property Rights Index demonstrates that there is a strong correlation between developed property rights and economic development. As the economy continues to struggle with slow growth and high unemployment, Virginia voters would do themselves a favor by supporting property rights this November.
Judicial Activism Jeopardizes Jobs
Friday, January 27, 2012 4:14 pm | By Paul Petrick
Last year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals once again used the Clean Water Act to bludgeon industry and property owners. In Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, the nation’s most infamous appellate court held that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been misinterpreting its own regulations for more than three decades. The EPA has traditionally considered the cultivation of trees to be an agricultural activity. The jurists of the Ninth Circuit have determined that they have the expertise to overrule decades of regulatory precedent and deem forestry a manufacturing activity. Unfortunately for the two and half million Americans employed by forestry, this ruling poses an existential threat to their livelihoods.
The Clean Water Act stipulates that runoff from manufacturing concerns be strictly regulated by the EPA. If the Ninth Circuit decision is upheld, storm runoff from forest roads would require a permit and be subjected to a myriad of new regulations. If the increased compliance costs do not decimate foresters, the litigation will. The Clean Water Act has long been utilized by well-funded environmentalists as justification for bringing industry to court.
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling has been appealed and the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to grant the appeal at the end of its current term. Last December, the Court asked the Solicitor General to file a brief detailing the position of the Obama Administration. As the nation struggles with stubbornly high unemployment, the Obama administration should consider the needs of the twenty-six states that have filed amicus curiae briefs petitioning the Supreme Court to hear this case. If not overturned, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will once again have burdened job creators with millions of dollars in lost time and money. The reigning Supreme Court justices should not let the regulation of rainwater rein in economic growth.
Indiana Considers Eminent Domain Reform
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 9:29 pm | By Paul Petrick
On January 12, the Indiana Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters passed Senate Bill 54, an important step in the fight against eminent domain abuse. This legislation would mandate that state universities seeking to acquire private business property compensate the business owner for estimated future earnings in addition to the traditional fair market value of the property. Senate Bill 54 is the brainchild of State Senator Doug Eckerty (R-Yorktown) and was prompted by the plight of a Muncie, Indiana businessman who found himself in competition with the biggest of all big businesses, the government.
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