A bill strengthening property rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2005 ruling on eminent domain has been introduced in Wisconsin and is awaiting finalization in the state legislature.

Wisconsin’s Assembly Bill 657 would strengthen property rights by prohibiting the condemnation of property that is not blighted if the condemnor intends to convey or lease the acquired property to a private entity.

Essentially, the legislation is aimed at protecting single-family homes from being condemned and sold to private parties.

“The bill has gone through both houses. The Senate amended it and sent it back to the assembly, and it’s sitting in the speaker’s office. We want to get it finalized in this session, which ends this Friday,” a spokesperson for Republican State Rep. Mary Williams, who supports the bill, said this morning.

In June of last year, the Supreme Court ruled in a split decision that local governments can seize individuals’ homes and businesses against their will to make way for shopping malls, office buildings and other private economic development. Other states have since introduced, and in some cases, passed, legislation addressing the effects of this decision.

Jim Doyle, Wisconsin’s governor, is expected to sign the Wisconsin bill, according to media reports.

The Supreme Court decision set off responses across the nation and eminent domain remains a hot topic. Yesterday, the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance launched a four-day, statewide newspaper and radio media campaign urging homeowners to support the state Assembly Bill 657.

The ads, which will run in the Fond du Lac Reporter and other publications, urge homeowners to call their legislators and the governor’s office to demonstrate their support for the bill.

The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision set off a huge public outcry across the nation. Legislators in several states pitched bills to limit municipalities’ eminent domain authority.

In August, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley signed a state law that strengthens private property rights by prohibiting state or local governments from “condemning private property in non-blighted areas for the purpose of retail, commercial, industrial, office or residential development,” according to an Aug. 3 announcement.

“A property rights revolt is sweeping the nation and Alabama is leading it,” Riley said in a statement about the new state law. The announcement states that at least eight other states passed laws, before the Supreme Court’s ruling, that prevented the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is used to eliminate blight.

The Wisconsin bill would create a new section of an existing state statute prohibiting the condemnation of property that is not blighted if the condemnor intends to convey or lease the acquired property to a private entity.

The bill, which is less than two pages long, defines “blighted property.” It provides that property with one or more dwelling units is not blighted unless the property has been abandoned or has been converted from a single dwelling unit to multiple dwelling units and the crime rate in, on or adjacent to the property is higher than in the rest of the municipality.

The bill also requires a condemnor, before commencing the condemnation of property that the condemnor intends to convey or lease to a private entity, to make a written finding that the property is blighted.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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