The “Specter” of Condemnation Hangs Over All Property

by | Mar 12, 2006

It’s unfortunate for property owners that the battle for the right to own and control their land has fallen on the shrugging shoulders of Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). The Senator is Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which will decide the fate of the Property Rights Protection Act, (S.1313). That’s why the bill’s future […]

It’s unfortunate for property owners that the battle for the right to own and control their land has fallen on the shrugging shoulders of Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). The Senator is Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which will decide the fate of the Property Rights Protection Act, (S.1313). That’s why the bill’s future doesn’t look promising.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator John Cornyn, (R-TX) on June 27, 2005, as an immediate response to the infamous Supreme Court decision, Kelo VS New London, CT. That decision said local governments could team up with private developers to bull doze homes in order to build new projects to bring in more tax dollars for the city. The ruling caused Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to warn that “any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party.” She went on to say, “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property.”

The decision caused an unprecedented firestorm of revolt across the nation. Forty-three states are now pushing legislation to protect private property from eminent domain abuse. Two commercial banks (BB&T of North Carolina and Montgomery Bank of Missouri) have announced that they will no longer finance projects where the land was taken by eminent domain. Said the Chairman of the Board of BB&T, “It’s just wrong.” And the U.S. House of Representatives quickly passed its own version of the Property Rights Protection Act in November, essentially cutting off federal funds to any community that uses Eminent Domain for community development.

But Senator Specter isn’t falling for these arguments. He’s a big government boy all the way.* You know, one of those guys who just naturally has the answers for how the rest of us should live. Senator Specter never saw a big government deal he didn’t like. People, in Senator Specter’s way of thinking, are just sheep to be coddled at election time. In Senator Specter’s world, people who speak out about losing their homes or jobs to government dictates just get in the way of serious work.

In short, it’s an ideological war between Americans who believe government is to be feared and controlled verses those who believe government is the answer to every question. Senator Specter likes to make life easy. He’ll choose good old government every time. Remember, it’s just for the common good.

That’s why Senator Specter is sitting on S.1313. No action has taken place in his committee since it was introduced back in June. Yes, he did hold a hearing on the bill in September. A very high profile one at that. In fact, he allowed Suzette Kelo to take center stage and tell her story to the nation. But that’s where action stopped.

What Senator Specter is perpetrating is a well-know legislative flimflam. While the nation is inflamed over the Court’s decision, he is stalling, hoping the furor will die down and go away. Then he and his big government brethren can go back to business as usual.

Of course, the Senator doesn’t put it exactly in those terms. He tells us that he’s just being cautious, reviewing the legislation. He doesn’t want to rush to judgment on so vital an issue, he assures us. The Hearing in September gave him good cover. He got to make headlines on the issue, which served to calm the people into believing that he was actually doing something. It will also probably help him fool some of his voters at reelection time.

And he is doing something. He’s buying time for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities. Now, these are folks Senator Specter can get cozy with. They think alike. They don’t act through a motivation of selfishness like the bothersome property owners. Nope. They answer to a higher authority

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Tom DeWeese is the publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report and president of the American Policy Center: www.americanpolicy.org

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