Florida residents no longer have to wait for the Eminent Domain Reform legislation to go into effect. Florida House Bill 1567 was signed into law last May of 2006 by then Gov. Jeb Bush. It provides Florida home and business owners with protection against eminent domain abuse. The bill, which flew through the legislature with ease, will stop localities from transferring land from one owner to another using eminent domain. HB 1567 will effectively eliminate condemnations for private commercial development for the next 10 years. In addition, the bill will require municipalities to use their police powers to address properties that actually pose a threat or danger to the community. In the past, municipalities could exercise the use of eminent domain to transfer ownership of property for the purpose of public use. The property owner would be forced to accept just compensation for the land whether they desired to keep the property or not. This is a landmark victory for all Floridians. Hopefully this becomes the model for all states in our great country.
The US Constitution will still allow the government to condemn property for public uses, however they will no longer be able to abuse their power. In years past with all the prime waterfront property in Florida, local government agencies and developers have not hesitated to strong-arm property owners who owned land they wanted to develop. It is important as americans, that the little man is protected by potential abuses of this nature. Other than extreme circumstances no man should be forced to vacate his land for any price, unless he chooses to by his own free will. If these greedy developers are to have their way, the entire coast line of Florida will be nothing more than condominiums as far as the eye can see.
The House and Senate in Florida also put a constitutional Amendment on the November ballot allowing the voters to decide on exceptions to the state constitutional ban on eminent domain for private use. The amendment passed by the voters requires a three-fifths majority in both legislative houses to make an exception to the law. This amendment goes into effect on January 2nd, 2007. No sooner than the three-fifths majority was approved by Florida voters in early November, several beach municipalities along with developers attempted to rush through plans to condemn many properties for private development. A fine example of just how important the passing of these bills has become. They were attempting to condemn properties by issuing code violations at will, and not giving owners reasonable time to bring their homes up to code. Some of these people are having a hard enough time dealing with the huge hike in property taxes and insurance. The funny thing is, you never seem to hear these kind of stories in the media. It just goes to show how money can corrupt everything. All it takes is a few developers with millions of dollars in cash, along with the lobbyists to spread that cash around a few local government officials pockets, and the poor little guy trying to live the dream life in Florida gets screwed. So chalk one up for the little guy, at least for the moment.
I’m sure we have not heard the end of this one yet. With the amount of money that is made on prime real estate in Florida, I think it’s fair to assume there will be some challenges made to this amendment. Let’s hope more states in the US follow the lead in Florida, and a precedent can be set that will make it to difficult to change for a long time to come. In the last 5 years alone Florida has enjoyed tremendous increases in land and property valuations, which have resulted in massive revenue cash cows for the state. Because the states coffers are stuffed with additional revenues, they don’t need to allow these developers to come in and condemn homes just to build what turns out to be more value in the land, so they can create more property tax money. At the present levels, they should be considering giving people a break on real estate taxes. So between the eminent domain reform, (which will be effective for a period of 10 years) and the amendment requiring a three-fifths vote in both houses to cause exception in the case of private use, Floridians have at least a little something to be excited about. It’s truly a blessing to see how the power of voting can work for the people.