Somin in LA Times: Vote No on Proposition 99

Professor Ilya Somin explains that California voters should not fall for the efforts of pro-condemnation interests to convince them approval of Proposition 99 will protect them against eminent domain actions. In fact says Somin, the approval of the ballot initiative would offer almost no protection of that kind. 

Proposition 99, says Somin, protects only owner-occupied residences against condemnations with the purpose of transferring property to "private persons," while leaving California's 42% of households currently renting a residence without protection. Owners of farms, small businesses, and homeowners who have lived in their residences for less than one year also would remain at risk. In addition, language in the initiative could be used by government officials to circumvent the intent in order to favor those seeking condemnation, Somin fears. 

Californians would be better served by a vote for Proposition 98, which Somin believes "really would forbid 'economic development' condemnations and other abuses."

Don't count on Prop. 99, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2008. by Ilya Somin.

"Economic development and blight takings often transfer property from the poor and politically weak to the politically powerful. Since World War II, from 3 million to 4 million Americans have lost their homes to such condemnations.

"Many of the eminent domain laws passed since Kelo -- including California's 2006 law -- are likely to be ineffective. Legislators have passed bills that only appear to protect property rights. The most common allow economic development condemnations under the guise of alleviating blight, which many states define so broadly that almost any neighborhood qualifies, as in the dubious La Puente case.

"An August 2007 survey by the Saint Consulting Group found that only 21% of Americans know whether their state has enacted eminent domain reform legislation since Kelo, and only 13% know whether that legislation is likely to be effective. Proposition 99 is a particularly skillful attempt to exploit political ignorance to block effective eminent domain reform. Californians shouldn't fall for it."

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