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Anti-Kelo Legislation in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania is considering legislation that would limit Kelo-style takings:

The idea that one taxpayer's property can be taken by government and turned over to another private person for non-governmental purposes is outrageous," said state Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, R-Dauphin.

He is sponsoring legislation to restrict municipalities' rights to take property by eminent domain. Similar legislation by Rep. Thomas Yewcic, D-Cambria, is in committee.

At least 35 other states are considering similar bills.

Stumping for Mr. Piccola's bill yesterday were Sens. John C. Rafferty Jr., R-Montgomery, and Patricia H. Vance, R-Cumberland; and Rep. Glen R. Grell, R-Cumberland, who is introducing identical legislation in the House.

Under their plan, municipalities could seize property under certain circumstances — for example, to remove blighted structures that are beyond repair and unfit for habitation or use. Municipalities also could take unoccupied properties that have been tax delinquent for more than two years, have been abandoned by their owners or have liens totaling more than 150 percent of fair market value. Municipalities could condemn an entire area if more than half of the properties within it are eligible for seizure.

"The use of eminent domain to destroy an established and unblighted neighborhood of homes and businesses to make way for shopping malls, office complexes or other private development is unfair and contrary to good public policy," Mr. Piccola said.

Critics oppose the legislation for the standard reasons.

The article notes that Kelo itself had little effect in Pennsylvania, which has long been on the national forefront of taking private land for commercial development. John Tierney memorably catalogued Pittsburgh's record in using the eminent domain power for private commercial in a column in the New York Times in the days before it was invitation-only (Lynne Kiesling posted a brief excerpt from Tierney's column here when it first appeared).

Gordon (mail):
The bill seems to be a reasoned and measured response to the narrow Kelo-type situation that might arise.
10.14.2005 2:27pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
The delicious irony is that one can achieve the same result -- "...remove blighted structures that are beyond repair and unfit for habitation or use..." -- at no cost to the taxpayer by the use of the abatement process.
10.14.2005 2:28pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Todd: Could you please elaborate on what the "Standard reasons" for opposing this legislation are? Who are these critics?

Not trying to be snarky... it seems like reasonable and necessary legislation to me, and I don't understand what reason people would have to oppose it.
10.14.2005 2:37pm
Ben Barros (mail):
Actually, there aren't many opponents. I was on a panel last night discussing Kelo and reform legislation. One of the other people on the panel was Ed Troxell of the Pennsylvania State Association of Bouroughs, and he supports the bill. It is well written and reasonable, though it still needs a few tweaks. Planning people tend to oppose broad restrictions that they see as going too far in restricting government ability to act, esp. in the redevelopment context. But one of the side effects of the post-Kelo outcry is that it is hard to find anyone -- Republican or Democrat, pro-government or anti-government -- who opposes reasonable reform. I suppose the only people who might oppose it are some developers.
10.14.2005 3:58pm
Steve:
The easier it is to pass these common-sense legislative reforms on the state level, the less we will hear about how outrageous it was for the Supreme Court to leave the issue for state legislative processes to resolve. It's surely a much better result than having the federal courts scrutinizing every single taking under some ad hoc constitutional framework for time immemorial.

The anti-Kelo movement is easily in the majority, and it has been very, very strange to hear a majority complain so loudly about a Supreme Court decision that left an issue for majoritarian processes to decide.
10.14.2005 5:21pm
Zywicki (mail):
I'm sorry Daniel, I just meant to summarize, not deride. The "stadard reasons" are simply that the city needs to have the discretion to choose on a case-by-case basis whether eminent domain is needed.
10.14.2005 5:57pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
It's great that the Supreme Court is leaving something to local governments for once, but in the meantime they seem to have rendered the Takings clause almost meaningless. It's supposed to be a protection AGAINST using the power of the majority to violate individual property rights.

Thanks, Todd.
10.14.2005 6:39pm
Public_Defender:
The snarky remark about the NYT requiring a subscription to pay is intersting. Juan Non-Volokh took a similar swipe earlier.

Why is it interesting? Because I don't see similar snarky remarks about the Wall Street Journal's decision to put only tiny percentage of its content on the web for free.

Besides, as professors, both you all can read the Times for free a day late on Lexis and/or Westlaw.
10.17.2005 8:34am
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