Protecting Property Rights

Private ownership of property is a fundamental right in America. Along with that ownership comes a certain expectation that landowners will be able to legally use their land as they see fit, so long as others are not harmed. Over the years, that expectation has eroded as federal, state and local governments passed laws that impact how a landowner uses his or her land. Furthermore, governments obtain property through eminent domain to use for various purposes including roads, parks, open space and conservation areas and other activities.

In the United States, the "taking" of private property is prohibited by the Constitution. However, actually getting relief under the Fifth Amendment is difficult for property owners to achieve. Recent Supreme Court actions are particularly alarming, as the Court has seemingly embraced an expansive view of governments’ right to invoke eminent domain to seize private property for other purposes. In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that local governments may seize private property for development, even if that development primarily benefits a private company. The taking of private property reduces the economic productivity of the land, and decreases the tax revenues needed to support our schools and other necessary public services, in addition to violating of our civil liberties.

Since its earliest days, the Western Caucus has taken a lead role in standing up for property rights, and will continue to oppose excessive uses of eminent domain.