Florida Libertarians Help Stop Eminent Domain
October 3rd 2005
ridicules, defeats "stealth bill" that avoids mentioning eminent
St Petersburg, FL--As the new
legislative session opens in Florida, some legislators increasingly
ask, "What do the Libertarians think?" The reason is the question
was on the mind of many legislators when they closed up, say some
Libertarians have a growing reputation as 'go-to' people on human
rights and expanded freedoms in Florida. They regularly mount
successful and attention getting coalitions, show a knack for
zeroing in and highlighting bills for defeat that have escaped
detection of most watchdog groups, and field a small but
well-respected contingent of local officials. And they're not too
happy about the push to expand Eminent Domain supported by many
leading Democrats and Republicans.
That's good news for many people. Worried that, with the new Supreme
Court "Kelo" decision, developers can seize your home? While people
across the nation fret , Florida Libertarians have led a successful
coalition to limit its effects in Florida. In fact, sponsors of a
bill that expanded State powers withdrew it completely after many
had thought it would have an easy passage, since it didn't even use
the term "Eminent Domain."
CONTROVERSIAL DECISION AFFECTS STATES DIFFERENTLY
The controversial Supreme Court decision allows local and state
governments wide Eminent Domain discretion, but by the same token
citizens can limit its effects through State law.
That's what happened in Florida, where Eminent Domain is fairly
limited. Republican and Democratic leaders immediately attempted to
expand Eminent Domain in the State, but Libertarians organized a
statewide coalition that outmaneuvered attempts to expand it--for
The coalition consisted of Libertarians and dissidents from across
the parties unhappy with the decision and scandalized by the attempt
to push through little publicized legislation that would have
substantially changed Florida law. The Supreme Court decision has
been subject to nationwide ridicule often led by Libertarians, who
even mounted an effort to use it to seize Supreme Court Justice's
homes as public nuisances. The bill would have allowed corporations
to seize people's homes and businesses if they can promise higher
tax revenue, among other criticisms, say opponents of Eminent
Libertarian critics are even harsher. They say Eminent Domain is way
beyond its intended Constitutional function and is in any event as
obsolete as slavery, pointing to voluntary methods used to carry out
projects without it.
LIBERTARIAN PARTY BATTLE
The bill would have dramatically increased expanded eminent domain
rights for local governments. The Florida Senate moved quickly to
pass its procedures for local government officials to group private
property together, seize it by eminent domain, and sell it to a
While many watchdog groups were unaware of the bill, the Libertarian
Party of Florida encouraged members to mount what Mr. Augustinowicz,
who is also a local anti-Eminent Domain activist in the Sarasota
area, called "feverish action." They deluged legislators in the
House, which expected to speedily give final approval, news media,
and affected groups with a phone, fax and e-mail campaign that "Got
the message out and drew attention to the bill's language, thwarting
it in the House of Representatives."
"With a companion bill that was also defeated, they would
essentially have revoked private property rights in the state of
Florida," Mr. Augustinowicz, said.
Mr. Augustinowicz is part of a growing number of Florida Libertarian
activists who then also run for office, hold workshops, or serve on
local boards, keeping public interest in Libertarian solutions at an
all-time high. He mounted what local media dubbed a "respectable"
campaign for Florida State House in District 71, one credited with
helping prompt other parties and groups to start soliciting
Libertarian input. "Currently, to claim eminent domain, the
government had to show blight; they had to show that the land was a
slum -- that the condition of the structures was deteriorating."
Local Libertarian party groups in counties such as Pinellas, which
includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater, also met with local
legislators and activists of other parties. The effort culminated
with visits to State legislators by Mr. Augustinowicz.
MORE WORK TO DO
Nonetheless, that doesn't mean Libertarians are happy with the
"It's abused. In one area they're trying to condemn a subdivision
because the road is in poor repair, even though the houses are in
excellent condition. Government is even condemning property of
people who located in response to a supposedly 'long term'
government plan of a few years ago, only to find they're homes
seized when the government changed its mind."
After the LP got active, just days before the April 30 end of the
legislative session, the House bill's sponsor and co-sponsor --
Gayle Harrell and Kevin Ambler, respectively -- both withdrew their
support of the bill and it died in the House without going to a
The Libertarian effort attracted national media attention. "One
legislator actually went on Neil Boortz's show to tell everyone she
wasn't aware of the possible misuse of the law at the time she
sponsored it," Augustinowicz said. "I was extremely happy to see
this bill die in the Florida House. The fact that such a bill was
even considered and passed in the Florida Senate should send a loud
warning to the citizens of this country.
Part of the media attention was directed to the fact the
Libertarians had located the bill at all, a fact praised by talk
show callers: The Senate bill was amended to remove all references
to the words "eminent domain," replacing them with "land assembly or
adjustment," Augustinowicz said. "But it was essentially the same
bill with those words purposefully avoided."
"It's stealth legislation. When government begins to usurp the
rights of property owners, then we no longer live in a free
society," said Kim Snow, a Libertarian candidate for State House
District 47 in Hillsborough, who received 30% of the vote and led
local efforts in Tampa.
Now that the eminent domain-expanding bill is dead, stopping such
attempts in the future has become a primary goal for activists such
"Our state legislature tried unsuccessfully to slip this by the
people," he said, noting that no one noticed the potential dangers
of the legislation until it was almost too late do take action.
"Make no mistake: This bill will be disguised and be back before our
legislature again in the near future."
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The Libertarian Party
By M. Gilson-De Lemos
Mr. Gilson is an internet columnist
Keywords and Misspellings: Libartarian
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