Maryland Next to Tackle Eminent Domain?


The U.S. Supreme Court — relying in part on language from the Maryland Court of Appeals — ruled June 23 that local governments have wide latitude in taking private property. A firestorm over property rights has ensued, and lawmakers are responding. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office says that state law on eminent domain mirrors the high court’s decision, and in fact local governments here may have broader powers to seize private property. Lawmakers in about half of all states are working to draft limits on use of eminent domain. Action is also expected in Congress to try to limit the effect of the ruling. . . . . In Annapolis, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and lawmakers from both parties predict a flurry of bills limiting eminent domain will be considered when the legislature reconvenes in January. Ehrlich “is not pleased with the direction the [U.S.] Supreme Court took” when it ruled in a New London, Conn., case that local governments could force the sale of private property to permit redevelopment that would increase jobs or tax revenue. The governor is looking at “all options” to protect landowners, Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said, adding that he is a strong supporter of private property rights. Lawmakers are drafting a range of proposals from amending the state Constitution to bills that would ban or limit a government’s ability to take private property for public use. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said a proposal to change Maryland’s constitution to limit use of eminent domain would pass “overwhelmingly” if it goes on the ballot. But Miller said he is not sure that such a measure could garner the support of two-thirds of both Senate and House members that it needs to go to voters.

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