The right to own property is a fundamental right of which this country was founded. As Americans we should all be proud to live in a country that understands the importance of personal property.
However, Ohio has seen a trend recently of government entities not respecting personal property and abusing their power of eminent domain. There are two bills that passed the Ohio Senate that work to correct this problem and protect personal property for all Ohioans. These bills are SB 7, introduced by Senator Grendell; and SJR 1, introduced by Senator Coughlin.
It stands to reason that if the government wants to exercise the power of eminent domain and take your property that the bulk of the burden should be placed on them. However, that has not been the case in Ohio. Ohioans are forced to spend their hard-earned money to try and save their property, or at the very least get a fair price for it.
SB 7 and SJR 1 work to correct this problem in Ohio. SB 7 limits the number of government entities with the power of eminent domain and forces them to pay the landowner's attorney and appraiser fees if a jury awards the landowner 125 percent of the government's original offer.
SJR 1 will allow all Ohioans to be protected from eminent domain abuse. It will remove eminent domain as a home-rule power and keep consistent eminent domain procedures throughout the state.
How the 127th General Assembly defines "blight" is important in ensuring the power of eminent domain is no longer abused in Ohio. SB 7 has a clear and strict definition for blight, however, the eminent domain bill introduced in the House, HB 5, has a vague definition of blight. In fact, the definition is so vague that almost any property could be considered blighted. Simply having a mouse on the property would cause your property to be viewed as "vermin infested" thus making it a blighted property. In addition, HB 5 only requires that 50 percent of the parcels be blighted in order to exercise eminent domain, whereas, SB 7 requires 90 percent.
The opportunity for eminent domain reform is very rare. I want to urge other Ohioans to join the hundreds who have already voiced their support of SB 7 and SJR 1. Make sure your state representative and senator know that you support these bills and you believe in the right to own property without having to worry about being taken away at a whim.
Chillocothe OH Gazette: http://www.chillicothegazette.com
John Torres is Organization Director of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation for Fairfield, Hocking, Pickaway & Ross Counties