2007 Eminent Domain Report Card: South Dakota Gets An “A”

Matt Powers
Matt Powers · June 6, 2007

Arlington, Va.—South Dakota 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 Dakota has passed some of the strongest legislation in the nation protecting small property owners from eminent domain abuse.

“South Dakota homeowners are much 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 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, “Although many state legislatures seemed uncertain about how to go about protecting their citizens’ property rights in the wake of Kelo, in early 2006 South Dakota became the first state to strike right at the heart of the problem with a well-crafted eminent domain reform bill.”

House Bill 1080 prohibits government agencies from seizing private property by eminent domain “for transfer to any private person, nongovernmental entity, or other public-private business entity.” The act—which passed the House by a vote of 67-1 and the Senate unanimously—also stipulates that after seven years, if condemned land is not used for the purpose for which it was acquired, the original owner has right of first refusal to buy the property at current fair market price. By taking this approach, South Dakota lawmakers demonstrated their recognition that it is simply wrong for the government to take property from one person and give it to another private party.

The report concluded that thanks to the state’s broad restriction on the use of eminent domain for private development—which was done without leaving any loopholes or exceptions—every home, business, and ranch in South Dakota should finally be safe from eminent domain abuse.

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 South Dakota 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.]