The subject of eminent domain tends to get people riled up. Property owners feel that the practice violates their property rights. Meanwhile, other groups feel that powerful interests abuse eminent domain for their own purposes.
Recently, two lawmakers introduced a bill in the Ohio legislature that would limit the government’s ability to take land for public purposes. If it becomes law, the bill would make it easier for property owners to challenge a taking under eminent domain, while placing a higher burden on the government.
Groups representing landowners say the legislation is necessary to protect property rights. Groups opposed to the bill say it will make it harder for the government to create hiking trails and other public spaces.
Eminent domain basics
Eminent domain is a legal practice that allows government agencies to take privately owned property for a public purpose. The property owner generally can’t refuse the sale but must be appropriately compensated.
Many property owners challenge a taking of their land through eminent domain and challenge it in court. In some cases, they may be able to prove that the purpose of the taking doesn’t really serve the public interest. More commonly, they argue that they have been insufficiently compensated for the taking.
The new bill would rearrange the current system for these lawsuits, making it somewhat easier for property owners to challenge a taking.
Eminent domain controversies in multiple states
While some of the challenges to the Ohio bill are centered on environmentally-friendly features such as public nature trails, in other states the debates look very different. Just recently, Iowa’s state legislature passed a bill designed to limit the government’s ability to use eminent domain to take land for the purpose of fuel pipelines.
Nearly every week, somewhere in the country, people are debating the idea of eminent domain, the value of takings and public purposes, and the question of just compensation.