Prop 98 V .Prop 99 Bill Leonard, Member, State Board of Equalization

Aren’t you glad that there are only two Propositions on the June 3rd ballot.

Today’s LA Times and OC Register editorial pages devoted extensive ink to the eminent domain issue. In fact I received another reported eminent domain story involving Ikea in the Kiev area of the Ukraine. The following report is from Bill Leonard, Member, State Board of Equalization.

***Promoting Property Rights***
The few Californians who will cast ballots in the June election will be considering only two initiatives that on cursory glance are very similar. Proposition 98 is the “California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act” while Proposition 99 is the “Homeowners and Private Property Protection Act.” Both measures are the latest reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Kelo vs. The City of New London which granted that city the right to take owner-occupied homes and turn the land over to a private developer who had construction plans. And while both measures claim to limit the power of government to seize your property, I believe only Prop. 98 does that sufficiently to merit your support.
Prop. 98 is sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association and says that government may not use eminent domain to take homes, small businesses, churches or farmland and give it over to a private developer for so-called redevelopment projects. However, government can still use eminent domain if the land is properly needed for a public purpose like a school, road or park. I am voting YES on Prop. 98 because I do not believe that private developers should connive with government to get the property they want to build on for less than they might have to pay that property owner directly. I used to do land acquisition for a redevelopment agency. Every single time that agency wanted a piece of land, I was able to purchase it by negotiating with the property owner and eminent domain was never invoked. There is no reason that same negotiation cannot work today. Unfortunately, some local governments are not interested in negotiating. It takes too long, it costs too much. Those local governments are now pushing Prop. 99, which also limits eminent domain, but does not go far enough. Simply put, my bias is in favor of property owners rather than government. Property owners have the right to disagree with both future developers and their government about whether a project is “necessary” and whether seizing private land is “justified.” Since I am not proposing an abolishment of eminent domain, the next step when such a dispute exists would be for the government to get a jury to award them the property and to pay the amount named while letting the owner tell the jury why he does not wish to sell. Prop. 98 does make it tougher on the government to make the case for the public purpose of the project, but that added burden does not outweigh property rights.
There are two additional issues that convolute the political aspects of this campaign, but that should not affect your votes. First, Prop. 98 would determine that rent control is a “taking” of private property. Second, the opponents of Prop. 98 are criticizing its potential for increasing the cost of acquiring property for highway projects and speculating that it may even prevent acquiring property needed for water projects. If Prop. 98 passes, I have no doubt that these aspects of it will be parsed out in court. Do not let that eventuality prevent you from casting a vote in favor of this measure protecting property rights for all California property owners.

Gilbert comment. In debating representatives of Prop 99 I find it interesting that they focus on bogus arguments against Prop 98 and have nothing to say about Prop 99.

Ask yourself the question. What exactly does Prop 99 achieve in the way of property rights protection for most owners, especially if you own a business or belong to a church. Their goal is rather simple. Block the protections we offer in Prop 98 even if the majority of voters support Prop 98 on June 3rd.

About Larry Gilbert