Friday, February 24, 2006

Way To Go Oregon


On a list of states with the worst property-rights protections, Oregon has long held a top position. So hearty congratulations to that state's landowners, who this week won a long struggle for more control over their acreage, and in the process may become a model for land-use reform across the country.

Their victory came in a unanimous Oregon Supreme Court decision upholding a 2004 ballot measure designed to curb "regulatory takings." Oregon lawmakers have spent 30 years perfecting the art of imposing their environmental agenda by restricting how landowners can use or develop their own property, whether it be building a new house or cutting down trees.

Oregon's ballot measure, which passed with a mere 61% of the vote, required authorities to either compensate landowners for any reduction in the value of their property, or exempt them from the regulations. This was the second time voters had passed the measure, the first version having been tossed out on a technicality by the state's notoriously liberal Supreme Court.

This time, however, the state's highest court surprised everyone by declaring that its only job was to examine whether the measure contravened the state constitution (it clearly did not), and that whether the measure is "wise or foolish, farsighted or blind, is beyond this court's purview." What brought about this healthy new respect for democracy isn't clear, although it could be the court is weary of intervening on behalf of every advocacy group that loses an initiative vote.

In any case, the decision is especially timely as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's egregious Kelo decision of last year. Other states are crafting versions of Oregon's law, and a few, such as Wisconsin, had put legislative efforts on hold pending the outcome of Oregon's litigation. This week's victory may well inspire more Americans to continue defending that most basic of Constitutional rights: owning property.

I glad for the people of Oregon and I hope that many other states will follow this lead.

posted by David at 3:22 AM :: Permalink ::