Property rights reform under proposal

Proposed reform to combat private property being seized under the Eminent Domain laws and then being turned over to private developments for economic development are scheduled for a public hearing this month. Attorney General Rob McKenna revealed two proposals that he indicated will protect the individual property rights from governmental abuse of power.

The authority to confiscate homes and businesses is one of the most intimidating powers granted to government by the people,” McKenna said. “There must be limits to that power. One of those limits should be on the government’s authority to take your land, only to hand it over to private developers.”

In Washington State, our constitution does not allow property to be taken from land owners for private use, but the state’s Community Renewal Law does allow eminent domain to be used to eliminate blight. This, of course, allows the state to announce any land “blighted” as they please.

A recent study by the Washington Policy Center said governments in Washington state have attempted to use the Renewal Law to seize the property from more than 71,000 land owners since 2000, which equals just under 8,000 owners a year for the past 9 years.

HB 2423 and SB 6199 will attempt to reform the renewal law to restrict the government from declaring entire neighborhoods “blighted” in order to sell them to private developers. Additionally, HB2425 and SB 6200 will proscribe using eminent domain for economic development.

Parties on both sides of the aisle are in support of this legislation.

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