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Old February 28th, 2014, 06:32
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House approves takings legislation

PROPERTY RIGHTS: House approves takings legislation

Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter
E&E: Thursday, February 27, 2014

The House yesterday passed legislation that would make it more difficult for the government to seize private property for local economic development projects.

In a 353-65 vote, the chamber approved Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-Wis.) "Private Property Rights Protection Act" (H.R. 1944) under a suspension of the rules, a procedure that required it to earn a two-thirds majority.
The legislation would undo the Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London. The court held in that case that the city lawfully seized Susette Kelo's Connecticut bungalow to make way for a multimillion-dollar development project.
Kelo challenged the seizure in court, arguing that it violated the Constitution's Takings Clause, which says private property cannot be "taken for public use without just compensation."

The high court, however, ruled that "economic development" qualified as a "public use" that granted the government authority to take the property.

Sensenbrenner earlier this week called the decision "infamous" and said it was "met with swift opposition" from property rights groups.

"The founders could not have intended this perverse result," he said on the House floor. "The protection of property rights is one of the most important tenants of our government."

Republicans have long criticized the decision. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) brought bricks from Kelo's cottage to the House floor, and Sensenbrenner pointed out that several minority groups, including the NAACP, back his legislation.

The House has twice passed nearly identical legislation in previous sessions of Congress. Those bills haven't been taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, and there is little indication that this bill will have a different fate.

Though a majority of the Democratic caucus supported the bill, some had previously criticized it for containing loopholes. At a hearing on the bill last April, Democrats said the bill has an exemption for pipelines already under construction, such as TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL (Greenwire, April 18, 2013).
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