Senate Moves to Bar Funds from Property Seizure Projects

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Reacting to a Supreme Court ruling, the Senate on Wednesday moved to bar some federal funds from projects where people's homes are seized for private development.

An amendment to the transportation, treasury and housing spending bill would prevent any money in the bill from being spent on projects that seek to use the power of eminent domain (search) to build shopping malls or other commercial developments.

"People should not be forced out their homes at the will of any private development," said Sen. Kit Bond (search), R-Mo., who offered the amendment. The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that local governments could take homes for private development projects that generate jobs and tax revenue. The decision was widely criticized by property rights groups and drew a scathing dissent from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search) as favoring wealthy corporations.

Since then, Congress has considered several measures to withhold federal funds from federal, state or local projects that take private property in the name of economic development. The House has approved legislation to bar federal transportation funds from being used in such projects.

Separately, Sen. John Cornyn (search), R-Texas, is pushing a bill that would ban the use of any federal funds in construction projects that rely on the Supreme Court decision to seize property.

Eminent domain is typically used for public works projects that benefit entire communities, such as highways, airports or mass transit projects. The measure approved Wednesday would continue to allow federal funds to be used when property is confiscated for public use.

Bond's amendment, adopted on a voice vote, also requires the Government Accountability Office to study the use of eminent domain.

More than two dozen states are considering changes to eminent domain laws to prevent the taking of land for private development. In its ruling, the high court said states are free to ban that practice.