One of conservatism’s highest priorities must always be to defend the timelessness of our people’s fundamental rights. The right to life, the right to religious liberty, the right to bear arms – these rights have no expiration date. Instead, their importance increases with the passage of time. Sometimes, because it is so rarely discussed, it is easy to forget one of the other basic rights our government was established to defend, and that is the right to property.
Though it may not make headlines as often as other issues, the fundamental right to private property has been under assault for years through our government’s abuses of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the authority vested in government to force the sale of private property. While this authority can be a necessary evil in rare cases related to public development, such as the building of crucial infrastructure, its modern use far exceeds this limitation. Today, it is often wielded by crony capitalist politicians to benefit wealthy and powerful private developers.
One of my proudest accomplishments as a public servant was leading the effort in Florida to pass both a law and a constitutional amendment to keep private developers from using eminent domain to take property away from private owners. This effort became necessary after the egregiously flawed Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision made private use of eminent domain legal unless states banned it. In the years since, the legislation I passed in the Florida House has become a model for states across the country.
As a result of these reforms, Florida now has some of the strongest laws in the nation protecting homes, businesses, and even houses of worship from being seized by private developers. This effort earned the state of Florida an “A” grade from the Castle Coalition, which is a nationwide organization established to defend private property from undue seizure.
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