Wisconsin governments can't seize private property that isn't blighted and hand it over to companies for redevelopment under a bill [AB 657] Gov. Jim Doyle signed into law Thursday.
The Republican-authored measure comes in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last June that held eminent domain laws allow the federal government to seize property for economic development.
The court ruled that cities may raze people's homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development. The 5-4 decision gave local governments the power to seize private property in the name of increased tax revenue.
The Wisconsin bill prohibits governments - ranging from counties to state agencies to the University of Wisconsin System - from condemning property that isn't blighted if the governments plan to convey or lease the property to a private entity.
Property can't be considered blighted unless it has been abandoned or converted from a single dwelling into multiple units and the crime rate in or around the property is three times higher than in the rest of the city, according to the bill.
Before a government can seize blighted property, its officials must make written findings that include a legal description of the redevelopment, the reasons for condemnation and the reasons why the property is considered blighted.
"This bill is important to ensure that eminent domain laws are used the way they were intended," Doyle said in a statement.
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