Dear Senator Engler:
On behalf of the more than 8,700 members of the National Taxpayers Union in Missouri, I write to offer our strong support for your legislation, Senate Bill 611, which would protect property owners by prohibiting states and localities from exercising the power of eminent domain for the purpose of economic development. Narrowing the definition of public use to exclude economic development would help stem potential eminent domain abuse by limiting the rationale used by government authorities in the Kelo v. New London case.
In June of 2005, the nation's highest court held that the city of New London, Connecticut was justified in seizing the property of Susette Kelo and her fellow homeowners on behalf of another private party. The city claimed it needed more tax revenues and, as such, needed to take land occupied by homeowners and small businesses to make way for a larger development project. Despite the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against taking private property for public use without just compensation, the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo permits the use of eminent domain for private to private transfers as long as government officials have a "plan" and believe there will be some economic benefit from the taking.
Taxpayers have a major stake in the battle over eminent domain policy. After all, private property is the foundation upon which our society is based. In the aftermath of the Kelo decision, we are now dependent on state legislatures to individually pass protections against eminent domain abuse. Thankfully, a series of bills introduced in the Missouri General Assembly would help protect Missouri residents from improper uses of eminent domain by prohibiting its use for economic development.
Unfortunately, some legislators have introduced vague "reform" bills that would not specifically provide added safeguards for property owners facing the threat of improper eminent domain takings. Eminent domain reform bills moving forward in the legislative process need to strengthen, not debilitate, the rights of property owners and taxpayers. That is why your effort to pass legislation to ensure that private property is not forcibly taken for private development is so important.
Thank you for helping defend the American Dream by working for genuine eminent domain reform, and our members look forward to helping you and your colleagues enact SB 611.
Kristina Rasmussen Government Affairs Manager