Proposition 99 would eliminate the state and local government's power to seize property except in certain circumstances. The measure would prohibit the government from taking single-family homes for use by another private individual, business or association. The measure would also stop Proposition 98's provisions from going into law, if Proposition 99 is passed by more votes.
Article I, Section 19 of the California Constitution allows the state government and local government the power of "eminent domain" for public use. Eminent domain is the right of the federal, state and local governments to take private property provided it is for the benefit of the public as a whole. California law states that the government must pay "just compensation." If the owner does not wish to sell his or her property, the government can still exercise its right to seize the property. Traditionally, the government's right of eminent domain has been used for projects such as highways, schools, libraries and public utilities. More recently, critics have accused state governments of using eminent domain to develop or revitalize specific areas as a means to bring in additional property and sales tax revenues. Governments are also required to compensate land owners if new laws are passed which affect parcels and create economic losses for that owner. Eminent domain is an issue which has previously surfaced on California ballots. Most recently, Proposition 90 was placed on the 2006 general election ballot. It would have established new guidelines when the government seized land, compensated property owners or made laws that affected the economic stability of land owners. Prop. 90 was defeated 52.4% to 47.6%.
CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS SEC. 19. Private property may be taken or damaged for public use only when just compensation, ascertained by a jury unless waived, has first been paid to, or into court for, the owner. The Legislature may provide for possession by the condemnor following commencement of eminent domain proceedings upon deposit in court and prompt release to the owner of money determined by the court to be the probable amount of just compensation.
The federal suit of the Kelo family against the City of New London, Conn., became a landmark eminent domain case in 2005. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the power of eminent domain included the authority to take private land without consent of the owner, for the express purpose of reselling that land to another private party. The Kelos had to leave their home when the city of New London seized their property for a privately sponsored development plan. The court said the development would add to the city's tax base, therefore making the seizure justified. With many other states enacting eminent domain reform in the wake of the Kelo decision, concerns have arisen that similar suits could be launched in California. State property-rights groups and homeowners groups have asserted that Proposition 98 and Proposition 99 are necessary to reform what they see as dangerous lack of land seizure restrictions in California law.
Proposition 99 would eliminate state and local government's power to seize property, except in certain circumstances. The measure would prohibit the government from taking single-family homes for use by another private individual, business or association. The property could be seized in cases where the government is using it to protect public safety, create a public work, respond to criminal activity or remedy environmental problems that threaten the public. If the property owner has lived on the site for less than a year or has not lived on the site at all, the prohibition would not apply.
Proposition 99 also carries a provision that if it is approved by more votes than Proposition 98, Prop.98's provisions would not go into law. If both measures pass, but with Proposition 98 receiving more votes, both measures would be in effect. Prop. 99 was created as a challenge to Prop. 98, which has more extensive property rights provisions. Prop. 99 supporters believe that the inclusion of rent control in Prop. 98's provisions in unrelated to eminent domain and would have a harmful effect on the state's population. Proposition 98 carries no provision about other measures passed but supporters have claimed that they believe Prop. 99 is a flawed measure which does not adequately champion landowner rights.
Proposition 99 - Key Provisions:
- Prohibits state and local government from seizing single-family homes for use by another private individual, business or association.
- Would allow property to be used when land is to be used for public benefit.
- State and local governments could take single-family homes in cases where property owner has not lived on the site or has lived on the site only for a limited time.
- Would void Proposition 98's provisions if Proposition 99 is passed by more votes.
Brown, Warner and Portman, The California Landlord's Law Book, Vol. I: Rights & Responsibilities, Appendix C (NOLO Press 2005)
California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Chapter 5 (Rutter Group 2005).
Arguments For and Against
Proposition 99 supporters believe that their proposal will fairly restrict the government from taking family homes for use by a private developer. They point to the fact that Proposition 99 does not eliminate rent control or change environmental laws, making it a superior proposal to Proposition 98. Supporters believe that eminent domain should only be restricted in cases where a family-home is being seized.
Opposition groups believe that Proposition 99 is a flawed measure which would not create real eminent domain reform. They say that Proposition 99 will not protect businesses, farmlands or churches from eminent domain seizure and that the measure creates broader allowances for the government to take property for the purpose of protecting public health and safety. Critics believe Proposition 98 better addresses eminent domain and property rights issues.
In Comparison: Prop. 98 and. Prop. 99
Proposition 98 and 99 are both eminent domain measures on the June ballot. They have different effects however, and supporters of both initiatives believe that their proposals better address the eminent domain issues.
Prop. 98's supporters largely come from taxpayer groups, property associations, and business groups. It is sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the California Farm Bureau and the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. Proposition 99's supporters come from a coalition of environmental groups, homeowner's associations and city and county governments. It is sponsored by the League of California Cities and the California League of Conservation Voters.
Official Voter Information
Individual Campaign Committees
Committees formed to support or oppose the ballot measure.
Key Websites and Links
Information page on rent control in the U.S. on Wikipedia.
Eminent domain initiatives: voter sentiment favoring passage of Prop. 99 but not Prop. 98, Field Poll #2269, May 29, 2008.
Californians and their Government, Public Policy Institute of California, May 2008. Californians opinions on Prop. 98 and Prop. 99.
Californians and their Government, Public Policy Institute of California, March 2008. The poll tested the conflicting eminent domain measures on the June ballot.
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