Republicans dropping the ball on Prop. 98

O.C. Register editorial writer Steven Greenhut has weighed in on Props. 98 and 99. His argument is very compelling. Here are a few excerpts from his editorial:

Well, the eminent-domain issue is on the ballot again, June 3, and leading GOP officials, including the governor, are AWOL, even though many individual GOP legislators have done the right thing. The advertisements for the two competing propositions – Prop. 98 and Prop. 99 – are confusing, which is no surprise these days. (To digress a bit, I recall a time when hit pieces were at least tangentially related to the truth. These days, advocates for initiatives basically say their measure will cure cancer, and their opponents’ measure will legalize sex with farm animals.)

The choice between the two is shockingly clear for anyone who actually believes in private property, freedom, limited government, constitutional principles, etc. Prop. 98, authored by the undeniably pro-taxpayer/pro-property-rights Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, would stop the abuses that this columnist has written so frequently about: government taking homes, churches, businesses and giving them to Costco, auto malls, condo developers. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision upheld the “right” of cities to do this, but the court in its only fit of wisdom encouraged states and localities to impose new rules that would limit government takings powers.

Prop. 98 would stop governments from taking property and transferring it to another private party. It would not affect traditional eminent-domain uses for public use. If government took property for one use and then decided to use it for something else, the proposition would force the government to sell the property back to its original owner. Prop. 98 does not include restrictions on regulatory takings.

In a bone-headed tactical move, the Jarvis folks included a provision phasing out rent control. That’s a sound principle. Why should government tell me what I can charge my tenant? But while this move increased the amount of money raised from apartment owners, it also provided an enormous Achilles heel. Remember, this would not allow landlords to raise rents on current rent-controlled tenants, but would simply allow them to increase rent to market rates after a unit is vacated and it would forbid new rent controls. Then again, opponents of 98 are adamantly opposed to any real eminent-domain reform, so they will find or manufacture a reason for opposition. And, by the way, they use sleazy methods to fund their tactics – including the alleged comingling of taxpayer dollars in political accounts.

These opponents, such as the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Assn., were clever. They didn’t want to simply oppose a reform measure. So they came up with their own measure, Prop. 99. It pretends to stop eminent-domain abuse. Not only is it advanced by those who advocate and benefit by abuses of property rights, but it would “constitutionalize” the right of governments to take property for almost any reason.

Prop. 99 only “protects” homeowners, but even those protections are a lie.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office argues that Prop. 99 “would not change significantly current government land acquisition practices.”

It does nothing, other than stop real reform.

Unfortunately, 98 is far down in the polls, and 99 is doing well. It doesn’t surprise me that Democrats side with the bureaucrats over the people, but why are Republicans too stupid to grab onto this freedom issue and use it to build a broader base?Remember this missed opportunity when November’s election results come in.

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