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Florida Property Rights

Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership.  The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity.  While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.

The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws.  The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain.  Stated below is the letter grade, as given by the Castle Coalition, along with a description of the changes that have occurred since Kelo v. City of New London.

Florida Castle Coalition letter grade of

a

The state of Florida has risen from an extremely poor rating to a nearly perfect rating when it comes to property owners’ protection against eminent domain. Thanks to several amendments being passed, combined with the establishment of a legislation committee to study ways to help curb eminent domain abuse, Florida property owners can feel at ease.

In 2006, House Bill 1567 was approved by the state legislature, which requires localities to wait ten years before transferring land taken by eminent domain from one property owner to another. This bill was significant for property owners because it successfully eliminated the use of eminent domain for private commercial development. In addition, the bill states that deeming an area “blighted” does not satisfy the legal requirements needed to condemn land. Instead, municipalities must use police authority to address properties on individual bases to determine whether or not they indeed pose a threat to public health or safety.

In order to ensure protection against private property transfers, House Joint Resolution 1569 was passed in 2006. The resolution requires a three-fifths majority vote in both houses prior to a transfer of private property to a private entity.

Summary

The state of Florida has the highest letter grade rating because of the multiple constitutional amendments in place that eliminate the possibility of using eminent domain to acquire blighted property for commercial use or redevelopment. Click to visit the Florida House of Representatives page which allows you to look through the bills passed that concern eminent domain over the past few years.

When Jeb Bush signed legislation banning eminent domain for private development, thousands of property owners were about to lose their homes when the City of Riviera Beach decided to condemn their property for a massive waterfront redevelopment project.  The property owners won their case in 2008 when the City of Riviera Beach abandoned their plan on the basis of having no authority to acquire property through the use of eminent domain.  Florida’s legislation change was passed in time to save these thousands of homes and likely prevented the condemnation of thousands more around the state.

While many states continue to follow the 1950’s Supreme Court ruling that ‘blight’ constitutes a public use, Florida has risen above this standard by declaring that ‘blight’ is no longer an endeavour that satisfies the public use requirement.  Eminent domain can only be used for purposes such as road improvement projects, utility projects, construction of public libraries or jails, ect.  As a result of these legislative changes, Florida property rights rank in the top across the nation.

 

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