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Mississippi 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.

Mississippi Castle Coalition letter grade of

Mississippi Property Rights

 

 

 

In November 2011, the state of Mississippi became the 44th state to pass eminent domain reform legislation since the US Supreme court case Kelo v. City of New London.   Initiative 31 was passed by an overwhelming 73% majority and amends the Mississippi Constitution to prohibit state and local government from taking private property by eminent domain and then conveying it to other persons or private businesses for a period of ten years after acquisition. Exceptions from the prohibition include drainage and levee facilities, roads, bridges, ports, airports, common carriers, and utilities. The prohibition would not apply in certain situations, including public nuisance, structures unfit for human habitation, or abandoned property.

Summary

Mississippi residents and legislatures have attempted to thwart opposition to eminent domain reform measure over the years.  The state came close with 2 strong bills that were presented in the legislature, but neither passed.  The Mississippi 2009 Legislature passed H.B. 803, which prohibited the taking of private property for economic development purposes.  Both House and Senate passed the bill, but the Governor vetoed it. The House overrode his veto, but the Senate failed to override the veto by a handful of votes.

In 2010, after 4 legislative attempts with little success at reforming eminent domain legislation, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation spearheaded efforts to get initiative 31 on the November 2011 ballot by collecting 119,692 signatures.

After a tumultuous year of opposition to Initiative 31, including a lawsuit filed earlier in 2011 to keep Mississippians from voting on it, The Institute for Justice filed an amicus brief in the Mississippi Supreme Court on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – Jackson Chapter and the Mississippi Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. In a September 2011 ruling the Supreme Court allowed the initiative to remain on the ballot but said it could be challenged if enacted.

Mississippi voters spoke loud and clear, 73% voting in favor of initiative 31, making Mississippi the 44th state to enact legislation directed at curbing eminent domain abuse. This is a huge victory for Mississippi residents who have been trying for years to reform Mississippi eminent domain laws.

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