By Bob Katzen
The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit private property from being taken by the government for private commercial enterprise, economic development or any other private use without the consent of the owner. A similar measure was originally filed in 2005 as a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows communities to seize private homes and businesses solely for commercial purposes. The ruling also allows states to establish laws prohibiting the practice.
“Respect for private property rights is a founding principle of our democracy, and one I believe should be firmly protected,” said the proposal’s sponsor House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “This bill reasserts the protections provided by the Massachusetts Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by ensuring that government land seizures are limited to those instances where the taking of land is necessary for the good of the whole community, not for the benefit of a limited class of persons.”
Opponents say the proposal is too strict and ties the hands of the government in an emergency.