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2007 Eminent Domain Report Card: Maryland Gets A “D”

Arlington, Va.—Maryland home and small business owners have reason to be concerned 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, Maryland has done little to protect property owners across the state.

“Maryland homeowners are not much more protected from eminent domain abuse today than they were the day the Kelo decision came down,” 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, “Maryland legislators filed more than 40 bills addressing eminent domain during the 2006 session. Legislation banning the use of eminent domain for economic development reached the floors of both chambers. However, when property rights advocates attempted to amend the bills to create legislation that offered real reform, the measures stalled and the General Assembly adjourned without passing any eminent domain reform.”

In 2007, very few bills addressed eminent domain reform, and even fewer received a committee hearing. The only bill that passed was Senate Bill 3, which requires condemners to proceed within four years of authorization or the authorization expires. Additionally, the bill raises caps on various compensation arrangements.

An expiration on condemnation authorizations may reduce speculative and unnecessary condemnations, as well as help property owners avoid years of uncertainty surrounding a proposed project. However, Maryland needs much tougher reform, including stronger property rights protections in the state constitution.

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, farmers and churches in Maryland and beyond are to be safe 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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