RLCers Win on Property Rights, Term Limits

 

2006 Legislative Priorities:

 

          After months of letter writing, public speaking, phone calls, visits to Tallahassee, media work and intra-party intrigue, the RLC of Florida finished batting 1.000 in its first serious legislative lobbying effort since the organization was re-chartered in 2004.

          "Our experience during the 2006 session is evidence that the RLC's principled and practical strategy is the right one to advance libertarian policy," said RLCFL Chair Lisa Bullion. "The RLC took a lead role in two important issues of the day and our efforts were rewarded."

           The RLC of Florida chose two legislative priorities for the 2006 session. The first was advocating a state ban on government takings of private property for private redevelopment and the second was defeating a legislative effort to extend Florida's voter-approved term limits from eight to 12 years. Both were successful.

Protecting Property Rights After Kelo

          The former was an extension of the RLC's battle against eminent domain abuse that was launched last year (see stories below). That campaign was launched in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's infamous Kelo v. New London case in 2005 in which the court deemed the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment as a constitutionally justifiable ‘public purpose’ if the redevelopment would increase tax revenues or provide other benefits to the government.

          Before the session started, the RLC – on the advice of the libertarian Institute for Justice’s Castle Coalition
-- was speaking to GOP clubs and city commissions, stirring up GOP activists and demanding property rights protections at the municipal level. But with the beginning of the 2006 legislative session, the RLC joined a coalition of groups pushing for a strict statutory and – primarily – a constitutional ban on Kelo-style takings.

          During the session, the RLC sponsored speaking engagements at GOP clubs to generate phone calls, email and letters and activated its statewide network to add to that pressure on legislators. The RLC also made its case in person, as RLCers teamed up with the grass roots activist group FreedomWorks and spent two days lobbying dozens of legislators face-to-face on this issue.

Carol Saviak, Coalition for Property Rights (Photo:  Brook-Pifer.com)

          Some legislative response to Kelo might have been inevitable, but the legislators were under great pressure from the Florida League of Cities and other special interests to pass a weak one. The RLC helped keep the pressure on for meaningful reform, asking for a total constitutional ban with an immediate effective date.

          In the end, the legislature delivered. HB1567/SB2168 passed unanimously in the House (113-0) and by an overwhelming margin in the Senate (37-3). According to the Coalition for Property Rights, the final legislation provides a comprehensive set of restrictions on the use of eminent domain and specifically states that the prevention or elimination of a slum area or blighted area is not a purpose for which private property may be taken.

          Both Houses also passed HB1567/SJR626 which proposes a Constitutional Amendment to be placed on the November 2006 General Election Ballot which will give Florida voters the opportunity to place another layer of long-term protection into the Florida Constitution.

          Carol Saviak and the Coalition for Property Rights
, the umbrella group for the supporters of the anti-Kelo legislation, recognized the role of the RLC in its victory press release. Other key players included Andy Brigham and his partners at the Brigham Moore law firm; attorney Wade Hopping of Hopping Green & Sams law firm; Butch Calhoun of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association; Dana Berliner of the libertarian Institute for Justice; Valerie Fernandez of the Pacific Legal Foundation's Atlantic Center; Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute; and members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Florida Chamber and FreedomWorks.

          While we can’t list all the RLCers who made the calls and e-mails, some key RLCers in this effort included FreedomWorks Florida Director John Hallman, Palm Bay Deputy Mayor Andy Anderson, Rep. Bob Allen (R-Merritt Island), Bob White, Aaron O’Brien, Jerry Cameron, Mike Meroney, Frank Bubb, Al Gutierrez and Philip Blumel.

RLCer Frank Bubb (right) talks with Tom Walls

          This effort isn’t over. With a vote on a Constitutional ban on Kelo-style takings in November, the RLC will continue to work to raise awareness among voters. RLCer Frank Bubb kicked off this effort with a talk to a Delray Beach homeowners association on May 11.

          For updates on the amendment campaign, see the CPR site.

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