Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments could use eminent domain to confiscate property for redevelopment. The decision has forced state and local lawmakers to create their own property rights laws. In Missouri, the eminent domain debate quickly spiraled out of control as lawmakers began to propose non-uniform exceptions to the state’s right to confiscate property.
First, the House unanimously approved legislation to exempt any house of worship from being subject to eminent domain, citing Constitutional protections of religion. After witnessing the success of that legislation, another bill was proposed to exempt gun retailers with the argument that the Second Amendment should protect them. Next, supporters of the health care industry and stem-cell research proposed that research facilities and hospitals should be exempt because they provide care for people with chronic diseases and save lives.
The debate continued for five hours before a joint bill to exempt both research facilities and gun retailers was voted down. The spiraling debate over private property is not unexpected. Legal historians point out that the right to private property is so fundamental to the rights defined in the Constitution, that when eminent domain is questioned all other rights are questioned as well.
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