A broad [citizens'] coalition announced it is launching its efforts to begin the signature gathering process to qualify the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act (CPOFPA) for the June 2008 ballot. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo v. New London decision two years ago, 41 states have enacted eminent domain reforms to protect the private property rights of citizens, with 20 states passing meaningful protections, but true reforms have eluded California so far.
Supporters of eminent domain reform cite the State Legislature’s consideration of the redevelopment industry’s ACA 8 as further evidence that no meaningful reform will be considered this year. ACA 8, submitted by Assemblyman Hector De Le Torre (South Gate), has been roundly criticized by private property rights experts, small business, taxpayer, farm and faith based groups as meaningless legislation. The Institute for Justice, who litigated the Kelo case, says of ACA 8 that, “the act will do little to prevent the actual taking of private property in California – and this flaw is fatal.”
“Laws that allow government to seize private property from California homeowners to build shopping centers and industrial parks must be changed,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “Since the legislature has failed to protect private property, voters will.”
Unlike ACA 8 which is riddled with loopholes, the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act outright prohibits government’s ability to profit by taking private property from one property owner and giving it to another.
“Family farmers and ranchers are very concerned about abuses of the government’s power to condemn land. It’s not right that court decisions allow the government to take your property and give it to someone else.” California Farm Bureau Federation President Doug Mosebar said. “This ballot measure helps assure that farmland continues to produce food and agricultural products, and offers much-needed protection for home and business owners throughout California.”
Major provisions of the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act include:
- Protect all properties from being taken for private development – including homes, businesses, family farms, places of worship and rental property.
- Continue to allow property to be taken for true public uses, such as highways, parks and schools.
- Prohibit government from seizing property for the same use as that of the original owner.
- Require that the property be offered for sale to the original owner if the public use for which a property was seized is ever abandoned.
- Provide agricultural and open space protections (aka Conaway Ranch Provision).
- Entitle property owners who are evicted by eminent domain to compensation for temporary business losses, relocation expenses and other reasonable expenses.
- Prohibit government from determining the price a property owner can charge to sell or lease their property.
While Prop. 90 was defeated by a slim margin last year, a survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies earlier this year indicated that over 67% of potential voters would support another ballot measure to protect their property from developers looking to build shopping centers and industrial parks. Since the CPOFPA does not include Prop. 90’s regulatory takings and has no limitation on government’s ability to take property for legitimate public projects, proponents are confident that this measure will qualify for the June 2008 ballot.
“Our campaign to restore private property rights protections for all Californians will be one of the state’s most ambitious campaigns ever” said Senator Jim Nielsen, ret., president of the Alliance. “Voters must stand united against special interests that seek possession of their homes, businesses and family farms.”
Opponents of ACA 8 have questioned the motivation for the League of California Cities effort to introduce a poison pill provision (amendment) later in the legislative process that would undermine passage of the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act. Should both ballot measures win voter approval next year, the poison pill provision would dictate that the measure with the most votes becomes law. Conceivably, the measure with no real protections could become law, leaving voters with the impression that they have been provided property protections when in fact they have not.
The proposed initiative will require 763,789 signatures to qualify for the June 2008 ballot.
The California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act is sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Farm Bureau Federation and California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights.
California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights: http://www.yesonpropertyrights.com