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Property Rights Legislation: A Survey of Federal and State Assessment and Compensation Measures

May 1996

Citation: ELR 10239

Author: David Coursen

Editors' Summary: In recent years, vindication of private-property rights has been the rallying cry of various citizen groups and politicianswho believe that certain regulatory restrictions—especially environmental protection measures—have "gone too far" and that the Fifth Amendment is an insufficient safeguard of private-property rights. Federal, state, and local lawmakers have begun to respond with measures that require governments to assess a regulation's potential to effect a "taking" of private property, and/or to compensate real property owners who are adversely affected by such regulation. This Article surveys current proposals at the federal level and recently enacted laws at the state level avowedly designed to safeguard private-property rights. After providing an overview of the bases for property rights legislation, the Article discusses in detail specific legislative proposals in the Senate and House of Representatives—S. 605 and H.R. 925. Next, the Article highlights numerous state compensation, assessment, and hybrid laws. It then compares the main features of such laws with the federal bills. The Article concludes that the value of any property rights legislation depends on its ability to ensure a fair and just result for society as a whole, not just for the individual property owner.