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2007 Eminent Domain Report Card: Kansas Gets A “B”

Arlington, Va.—Kansas home and small business owners have reason to celebrate according to a 50-state eminent domain report card released today. In the two years since the infamous Kelo eminent domain ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed eminent domain for private gain, Kansas has passed strong legislation protecting small property owners from eminent domain abuse.

“Kansas homeowners are more protected from eminent domain abuse today than they were the day the Kelo decision was announced,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, a national grassroots organization that examined and graded eminent domain laws for each of the 50 states since the Kelo ruling. Read the report at: www.CastleCoalition.org/publications/report_card.

According to the report, “Kansas is an example of a state that made great strides in 2006 to prevent further abuses of eminent domain for private benefit. Kansas’ governor signed into law Senate Bill 323, which prohibits property from being acquired and transferred from one private owner to another except in certain very narrow circumstances, such as for utilities or in instances where the property has defective title or is objectively unsafe. According to the terms of the statute, blight designations may only be used for unsafe property and must be made on parcel-by-parcel basis.”

The reforms were desperately needed in Kansas, where eminent domain had repeatedly been used for private benefit. These shady deals were also justified by the state’s courts, creating a persistent climate of abuse in the state. Now, under the new law, local governments face severe restrictions on their ability to take homes and businesses for the benefit of a private developer.

One area that will need to be addressed in future legislative sessions is a loophole that allows the use of eminent domain for economic development as long as the Legislature itself expressly authorizes the taking. The Kansas Legislature should have this exception removed before it is tempted to put it to use. Once it has done so, the state can stand as a proud example to the rest of the country.

Among the states that passed the strongest reforms protecting property owners are Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota, each of which received an A or A- grade. States that received F’s were: Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

“In only two years since Kelo, 41 states have reformed their laws to offer greater protection to small property owners,” said Jenifer Zeigler, legislative affairs attorney with the Castle Coalition. “But much more work remains if homeowners, small business owners, churches and farmers are to be as safe as those in Kansas from the unholy alliance of tax-hungry governments and land-hungry developers.”
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[NOTE: To arrange interviews on this subject, journalists may call John Kramer, the Institute for Justice’s vice president for communications, at (703) 682-9320 ext. 205.]

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