OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, filed Senate Bill 41 on Thursday to protect Oklahoma property owners from eminent domain abuse.
“As we celebrate Bill of Rights Day, a significant provision of the Bill of Rights is being violated in our state by the unjust taking of property,” Dahm said. “This bill attempts to constrain government in its use of eminent domain and make it very clear that those powers are limited.”
SB 41 replaces the term “public purpose” with “public use” and provides a clear definition of public use. It also states that economic development – including an increase in tax base, tax revenues, employment, or general economic health –does not constitute a public use.
“The public use terminology used by the founders has gradually eroded. What began as ‘public use’ became ‘public purpose’ which became ‘public benefit’,” Dahm said. “That interpretation gives government vast authority, effectively the ability to take anyone’s property for any reason. The founders never intended that to be the case.”
SB 41 provides definitions for blight and abandoned property and places the burden of proof on the condemning authority to prove that the taking of blighted property is necessary for a legitimate public use. The bill also allows property owners to reclaim their condemned property if the condemning authority fails to use it.
“Current law gives former property owners ‘first dibs’ to buy back their condemned property if it is not used,” Dahm said. “No property owner should have to buy back property that they were forced to sell, that’s ridiculous. By allowing former property owners to reclaim their property, SB 41 will provide them some remedy to eminent domain abuse and make it more costly for government to misuse that power.”
For more information, contact: Sen. Nathan Dahm at 405-521-5551 or email Nathan.Dahm@oksenate.gov.