Court Rules: No Merit to Opposition Arguments Against Prop. 98

On Friday supporters of private property rights including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association the California Farm Bureau Federation and a coalition of business and faith based groups were awarded a great victory in California’s State Superior Court.

For the past few months Proposition 98 a statewide ballot measure that will bring an end to the abusive practice of forcible seizing private property from property owners who don’t want to sell their homes and businesses to wealthy and political connected developers has come under attack principally from those who benefit from California’s abusive eminent domain practices — the League of California Cities and its coalition of redevelopment interests.

Even though Prop. 98 is far more limited in scope than Prop. 90 an eminent domain ballot measure that was narrowly defeated in 2006 opponents of reform have misleadingly nicknamed Prop. 98 the "Son of Prop. 90" alleging all sorts of unintended consequences associated with protecting private property rights.

By rejecting the League’s legal challenge to Prop. 98’s title and ballot summary that will appear in California voter guides the court simply didn’t buy the Doomsday scenario dreamed up by the California League of Cities and its anti private property rights coalition.

Although Prop. 98 phases out governments’ ability to set sales and lease prices on property the court rejected the attempt by opponents of Proposition 98 to characterize the initiative as merely a "rent control" related measure finding their claims to be "without merit."

The judge also rejected the attempt by opponents to include a false claim that Proposition 98 would have "far reaching" impacts on land use regulations finding their arguments to be unpersuasive.

The court ruling confirmed that Prop. 98 does not include any so-called regulatory takings provisions that require compensation to property owners for any and all financial damages to their property. One of the many false arguments opponents of reform made against Prop. 98 was that the measure would limit land use decisions by making them too costly for public agencies to afford. The court’s conclusion is also supported by the State’s ballot summary that says that Prop. 98’s net fiscal effects "probably would not be significant."

Property owners throughout California should be pleased that the court supported the view that Prop. 98 provides real and sensible private property protections without infringing on government’s ability to use eminent domain for legitimate public projects that convey water or protect the environment. Prop. 98’s eminent domain provisions simply limit government’s ability to forcibly seize private property from those who don’t want to sell to wealthy and politically connected redevelopment interests. No more no less.

Backers of genuine property rights protections noted the fact that the League of Cities lawsuit never challenged the State of California for not including any language in Prop. 98’s ballot title and summary supporting their previously stated claim that Prop. 98 would somehow limit government’s ability to use eminent domain for water projects. This outlandish assertion has been rejected by the State Legislative Analyst’s Office water and private property experts and California’s farming community.

"Clearly opponents of private property rights did not want to test their false claim in court. Prop. 98 does not prohibit the use of eminent domain to build public water projects. Their decision not to test this political scare tactic in the court room really puts the water issue to rest" said California Farm Bureau Federation President Doug Mosebar. "Water supply and conveyance are critical issues for farmers. This ballot measure protects farmland and the water critical to California’s food supply. This is why we are strong proponents of Prop. 98."

Since the private property grabbing coalition can no longer claim Prop. 98 threatens local land use decisions or water projects voters can be certain that it is only matter of time until they conjure up some other fraudulent reason why voters should forfeit their private property rights so that private developers supported by their public agency allies can continue to enrich themselves at the expense of private property owners.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.