WVGOP Launches Campaign to Include Eminent Domain Reform on September Special Session Agenda
The state Republican Party today launched a petition drive to encourage Governor Joe Manchin to include eminent domain law reform on his agenda for the special legislative session scheduled to begin September 7. Current West Virginia law is, like those of many other states, relatively liberal regarding when state and local governments may seize private land.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in Kelo v. New London (in which conservative justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas and recently-retired moderate Justice O'Connor dissented), a groundswell of public support has sprung across the political spectrum demanding that eminent domain laws be reformed to protect private property owners from the confiscation of their property for expropriation to another person simply because that other person would make the property more valuable or useful in the eyes of the condemning agency. Unlike most bad decisions issued by the US Supreme Court, the Kelo decision leaves state and local governments the room to change their own laws to correct this injustice. In this decision, the court held that, despite over 200 years of history to the contrary, the US Constitution did not prohibit such transfers of property from one private owner to another.
Currently, at least eight states have state constitutional provisions or state supreme court rulings interpreting their state constitutions to prohibit the forced transfer of property from one private owner to another. If you'd like to know more about the movement to reform eminent domain laws nationally, I highly suggest the Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition project. Also, if you would like to download a copy of the state Republican Party's petition, click here. To contact Governor Manchin, click here.