I wrote this column in July 2006 while in the legislature:
Private Property Rights
By Representative Vic Kohring
For me it started over a decade ago. Concerned that government was getting too grabby with private property for no good reason, I sponsored House Bill 154 in 1994 to prevent government from taking anyone's private property from them except under the most traditional eminent domain procedures, that of widening roads. Apparently I was slightly ahead of the public awareness curve because bureaucrats came up with the most outrageous "fiscal note" that they claimed would have practically bankrupted the government if my bill passed.
Last year the issue started a grassroots wildfire after the Kelo Decision. Kelo v. City of New London, was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in a 5-4 ruling involving the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another to further economic development. That decision was the overt destruction of one of our basic American freedoms. I even remember hearing that Jay Leno became wildly upset on the air over the idea that one private group could use government to literally take over another private group's land if it could convince the government that a literal theft would net the government more tax dollars!
In 2006 we passed House Bill 318, which is a start on limiting government land grabbing. It was passed almost unanimously in the Legislature, and the Governor recently signed it into law. In 2005 I read Oregon voters passed Measure 37 by a landslide, which stated bluntly that if the state took private land or enacted ordinances which impinged upon it, which lessoned its value, the landowner had to be paid in full for his loss.
According to the Seattle Times (7-6-06), much of the state's political establishment--business, labor, environmentalists, the governor--fought Measure 37. They warned it would shred policies that have helped keep the state "livable" for more than 30 years, and outspent the initiative's supporters by better than 2-to-1. Despite the fear mongering, the Measure won in 35 of the state's 36 counties on Election Day.
Within the last two weeks the same kind of initiative has sprung roots in the State of Washington. "Backers of a controversial property-rights initiative (I-933) filed petitions Thursday (7-6-06) bearing 315,000 signatures in support of the measure, almost guaranteeing it will appear on the November ballot." (Seattle Times 7-7-06) The initiative, inspired by the similar measure of their neighbors to the south and approved by voters in 2004, would require state and local governments to compensate property owners when regulations lower property values.
This fall Mat-Su voters will have a chance to vote on a similar local initiative sponsored by Wasilla's Penny Nixon and Palmer's Dennis Oakland. If their private property initiative passes, land that is impinged upon, devalued or partially "taken" by the Borough will have to be paid for in full.
I fully endorse the overall trend toward protecting private property in the U.S. and particularly in our beautiful Valley. Private property is the basis for successful free market capitalism. It is the basis for all our wealth and liberty. That is why liberals of all stripes have attacked it. I hope you will join me in voting for our local Private Property Initiative and help me look for ways we can overturn the Supreme Court Kelo Decision.
The principle is the same whether it's a farmer producing on his own land, an entrepreneur producing in his own plant, or an average American living in his own home. Freedom depends on clear-cut ownership rights. The fear of constantly looking over one's shoulder, worried that some level of government might seize one's property to give it to another is an ugly tradition of third world poverty stricken countries.
Let's not let it take hold here. Ever.
Paid for by Vic Kohring for U.S. Senate