Private property rights deserve state's protection

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Congressman Tom Osborne is justifiably concerned about the rights of individual property owners. In a news release issued last Friday, Osborne declared, "I'm surprised that the Supreme Court would nullify the rights of property owners afforded to them in the Fifth Amendment. I believe that Nebraska political leaders should pay careful attention to this issue in order to help protect the property rights of Nebraskans."

Osborne, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, spoke out in response to the June 23 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In that 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court appeared to give state and local governments the ability to use eminent domain "to take away the real property of any individual for nearly any reason, including taking property for the benefit of another individual or corporation," according to the Osborne statement.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

That possibility also is of great concern to Osborne. "It's alarming that cities can now demolish the homes of private citizens for the purpose of more intense development that will yield greater tax revenue," he said. "Eminent domain should never be used to the advantage of one party over another and -- as Nebraskans -- we need to do everything in our power to assure that this cannot happen in our state."

To accomplish this, he is urging the Nebraska Unicameral to consider legislation in its next session to address the problem of eminent domain. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, several states are already doing so. The list includes Delaware, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas and Massachusetts.

The right of eminent domain is necessary to accomplish some projects, such as highway construction. But the danger always exists of state and local government carrying it too far. Osborne takes this into account when he says, "Further economic development is key to Nebraska's prosperity, but its pursuit should not be justified at the expense of an individual's property rights."

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