Phoenix, Ariz.—The Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter today commended the Arizona House of Representatives for approving yesterday, by a bipartisan 32-19 vote, a bill that would curb widespread abuse of eminent domain powers. The bill, H.B. 2487, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Mesa), now goes to the Senate.
“Cities across Arizona are taking property from its existing owners and giving it to more politically powerful owners,” declared Clint Bolick, the Institute’s national director of state chapters. “It’s Robin Hood in reverse, and this bill would stop the abuse that threatens every Arizonan.”
The Institute represents Randy Bailey, whose family-owned brake shop that has operated in Mesa for 32 years is being taken by the City to give to a privately owned hardware store that wants to expand. The case is before the Maricopa County Superior Court.
Arizona’s Constitution provides one of the strongest protection of private property in the nation, declaring that “Private property shall not be taken for private use.” But in recent years, cities such as Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, Phoenix and others have been taking property and transferring it to private owners under the guise of “redevelopment.” In Mesa, not only is the City acquiring the land for the hardware store expansion, it is subsidizing it with $2 million in taxpayer funds. The bill would allow cities to acquire property for public use and to use other tools such as rehabilitation to improve dilapidated properties. But it would forbid cities from selling or leasing land acquired through eminent domain to private owners for ten years. It also would impose other limits to ensure that eminent domain is limited to public purposes rather than for corporate welfare.
“The pendulum has swung too far in favor of grassroots tyranny,” said Bolick. “This bill would harmonize state law and city practices with our state constitution.”