Viewpoint: Preventing eminent domain abuse

Friday, September 22, 2006

In July, I signed legislation to protect homeowners and property rights in our state. House Bill 1944 rejects the findings of the U. S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London by prohibiting the use of eminent domain solely to increase tax revenue for government.

Last year, the U. S. Supreme Court handed down a terrible ruling that undermined the balance between the rights of private property owners and the needs of the public. In the aftermath of this dangerous decision I formed the Missouri Task Force on Eminent Domain to carefully examine our state's laws regarding the use of eminent domain and issue recommendations that better protect the rights of property owners when the use of eminent domain is being considered.

I commend the General Assembly for passing this vital eminent domain reform legislation and the members of the Eminent Domain Task Force for their hard work in providing solid feedback and recommendations for the legislature to consider when crafting this bill.

Missouri's new eminent domain law protects homeowners and family farms from eminent domain abuses. Private property can only be claimed by employing the use of eminent domain after determining blight or that the property will be used for true public use. The bill requires "just compensation" for condemned property to be determined by factors beyond just fair market value. It takes into account and calls for additional payment depending on length of ownership or when the property is the owner's primary residence. In addition condemning authorities will now be required to pay relocation costs to individuals who are displaced by eminent domain. The bill also contains a "landowner bill of rights" to help inform property owners about the eminent domain process.

One of government's most basic responsibilities is to respect and safeguard the rights of the individuals, and this legislation ensures that property owners' rights are protected in our state from the abuses of eminent domain. House Bill 1944 strikes an important and appropriate balance between protecting property owners' rights and allowing the taking of private property only where there is a clear and direct public purpose.

Matt Blunt is the governor of Missouri.

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