Bogus Reporting on Arizona’s Prop 207

A recent article in the Arizona Republic on the impact of Proposition 207 (see my recent post here) is chock full of misinformation and is a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine the eight-month-old property rights law. Space and time don’t permit a thorough fisking of the piece, so I’ll focus on a few key spots. The first three paragraphs offer a clue to the direction of the piece right off the bat:

A new state law billed as a property rights safeguard has dealt a blow to residents and city leaders who want to save old neighborhoods, create shopping districts or influence what is built in their communities.

Hardly. Prop 207 hasn’t done anything to restrict cities’ ability to plan, create special districts, and the like; rather, it merely holds them accountable for the impacts of these planning decisions on the property rights of affected landowners. Citizens now have a form of relief if cities and counties adopt zoning changes and land use regulations that devalue private property. Nothing in the measure precludes or prevents governments from regulating land use; it simply offers aggrieved landowners a remedy, either via compensation for property devaluation or exemption from the regulation at hand.

Little in Proposition 207 dealt with eminent domain: the power cities have to force property owners to sell.

This is pathetically false. In fact, the Institute for Justice played a key role in helping craft the eminent domain provisions of the bill, and according to their recent state report card on eminent domain reform (in which Arizona got a B+), they write that:

The Private Property Rights Protection Act [Proposition 207] accomplished many necessary eminent domain reforms. Most importantly, the initiative significantly limited the scope of activities that could qualify as a public use. […] The next step is to include these protections in the state constitution.

Here are what I’ve found to be the most significant changes to Arizona eminent domain law under Prop 207:

  • Prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes;
  • Narrowly defining the term “public use” to include only (1) use by the general public or by public agencies; (2) uses involving the creation or functioning of utilities; (3) acquisition to eliminate direct threats to public health or safety; and (4) acquisition of abandoned property.
  • Requiring determinations of “blight’ to occur on a parcel-specific (i.e., property-by-property) basis;
  • Requiring that local governments must offer to locate and purchase a comparable home for landowners whose primary residences are taken through eminent domain, though landowners may instead choose to receive monetary compensation.

Not exactly “little to do with” eminent domain, eh? Back to the AZ Republic article…