Friday, July 01, 2005

Congress responds to Kelo

In response to the Kelo decision, the House passed an appropriations amendment, which would deny federal funds to states that use eminent domain for "ecomonic development". Here's the important part, the language of which is from a similar bill (the amendment isn't up on Thomas yet):
a) In General- The power of eminent domain shall be available only for public use.
(b) Public Use- In this Act, the term `public use' shall not be construed to include economic development.
If actually used, this would invite tons of litigation. The bill suggests that "public use" and "economic development" are mutually exclusive, when it's clear that plenty of eminent domain projects are intended for economic ends (viz., baseball stadia). Will "economic development" be construed in terms of private ownership? Probably not, or else they would've just put that in the bill. That reading is equally unlikely since Republicans [heart] privatization of government functions and private/public partnerships.

So what does it mean? It looks like it'll come down to some mushy 'intent' standard. I mean, it certainly seems to overturn Kelo, but the gazillions of cases that aren't so clear will have the litigation red carpet rolled out for them by this bill.

Alternately, I suppose it could be like a nuclear arsenal: valuable primarily as a threat.