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.
The state of Nebraska has seen very little reform since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London, however, the state has begun to take steps in the right direction. In 2006, the Nebraska Legislature passed Legislative Bill 924, which prohibits the use of eminent domain if it is primarily for an economic development purpose. Although this language restricts private developers from taking land for developments, it does not apply to public or private projects that make all or a major portion of the property available for use by the public.
The language in this bill is vague and has room for interpretation, which is problematic for property owners. It could be argued that commercial developments would fall under this category, meaning property owners are still not fully protected against private property transfers. This bill does, however, clarify that agricultural property cannot be designated blighted by local governments.
Private property that’s deemed blighted may be transferred to private developers under no time constraints, meaning that property owners have little protection with this hazy definition.
Nebraska as taken small steps toward protecting property owners against eminent domain abuse, and what the state really needs now is total reform concerning blighted areas and how areas are designated blighted. Once the state sees that, property owners will see significant amounts of protection. Click to read more about Legislative Bill 924.