An Express Article from the California Land Title Association
Two eminent domain initiatives appear to have gathered enough signatures to be placed before the voters in June of 2008.
One initiative is sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. It would prohibit government from taking property from unwilling sellers and giving it to other private owners. This practice has been criticized as motivated by government’s desire to increase property and sales tax revenue. The initiative essentially prohibits a public taking for a private use. It specifically protects places of worship, farms, homeowners and small businesses. Using eminent domain for a public purpose continues to be permitted and a public use is defined to mean use and ownership by a public agency or public utility. The initiative also limits governmental setting of rental rates upon a vacancy of a residential unit but does not affect current residents. The initiative does not contain any regulatory takings provisions.
The second initiative is sponsored by the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties and the California Redevelopment Association. This initiative does not prevent takings of private property for use by other private owners except for owner-occupied homes that have been a primary residence for at least one year. The limitations on government are not likely to significantly alter current government land acquisition practices according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. There are also no limitations on government’s ability to set rental rates for residential real property. Like the competing initiative, this initiative also does not contain any regulatory taking provisions. However, this initiative does contain a so-called poison pill that would nullify the competing initiative if both are passed by the voters but this initiative receives more votes.
The regulatory takings issue was perceived to be a major reason for the defeat of Proposition 90 last year which was before the voters as a response to the “Kelo” decision of the United States Supreme Court. That decision allowed homes to be constitutionally taken for a private development.
Backers have spent millions of dollars to qualify both initiatives, with local governments funding their initiative with money that they have designated on reports filed with the Secretary of State as non-public funds.