Arlington, Va.—South Carolina 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, South Carolina has passed strong legislation protecting small property owners from eminent domain abuse.
“South Carolina 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, “When the 2006 election gave South Carolina’s citizens an opportunity to stand up and express their support for private property rights, they came through with flying colors. More than 85 percent of voters in South Carolina approved a constitutional amendment that provides home and business owners across the state with meaningful protection against eminent domain abuse.” The amendment specifically prohibits municipalities from condemning private property for “the purpose or benefit of economic development, unless the condemnation is for public use.” It further requires that an individual property be a danger to public health and safety for it to be designated as blighted, closing a loophole that enabled local governments to use eminent domain for private use under the state’s previously broad blight definition. The amendment also removes provisions of the state constitution that had specifically allowed several counties to use eminent domain for private uses.
Before South Carolinians had their say, state law allowed government officials to take property for private use under the guise of blight removal, so what happened in the Kelo case could have happened in South Carolina. The constitutional amendment fixed that problem and gave the state’s citizens some of the strongest protection in the country from eminent domain abuse, ensuring that so-called blight laws could not be used as a backdoor way of using eminent domain to take homes, businesses, farms, and places of worship for private profit.
A constitutional amendment is unambiguously the most effective way to stop the abuse of eminent domain for private gain, and the passage and approval of this provision should effectively safeguard South Carolinians’ fundamental right to keep what they rightfully own.
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.
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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.]