Bob Goodlatte: Protecting private property rights
Private ownership of property is vital to our freedom and our prosperity and is one of the most fundamental principles embedded in our Constitution. The Founders realized the importance of property rights by enshrining these protections throughout the Constitution, including in the Fifth Amendment, which provides that “private property” shall not “be taken for public use without just compensation.”
This clause created two conditions to the government taking private property: that the use of the property is for the public and that the government gives the property owner just compensation.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London was a step in the opposite direction. This controversial ruling expanded the ability of State and local governments to exercise eminent domain powers to seize property under the guise of economic development when the public use is as incidental as generating tax revenues or creating jobs. In the wake of this decision, State and local governments can use eminent domain powers to take the property of any individual for nearly any reason.
For these reasons, it is important that Congress finally act. This week, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on the Private Property Rights Protection Act. I was honored to welcome Susette Kelo as a witness at this hearing and appreciate her courage in taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court and helping to highlight the plight that many property owners face.
No one should have to live in fear of the government snatching up their home, farm, or business, and the Private Property Rights Protection Act will help to create incentives to ensure that these abuses do not occur in the future. Our constitutional rights as Americans must be steadfastly guarded.
Bob Goodlatte represents the Sixth District in Congress.