Wednesday, May 21, 2008

California voters, please vote no on Prop 98 and yes on 99

The stupidity is back with us again. Feigning anger over the mostly-nonexistent threat of government agencies forcing people to sell their property so the agencies can resell the property to business interests, the property-rights fanatics have again given us an initiative that goes much further and restricts land-use regulation designed to protect the environment.

Proposition 98 specifically defines as a prohibited taking for private use, any regulation "in order to transfer an economic benefit to one or more private persons at the expense of the private owner" (text at bottom of first page). While this is so poorly written that we can hope the courts will gut it, we can't count on that. Any good land-use regulation will provide some economic benefit. Tightening noise restrictions in a mixed industrial/residential area will increase residential property values, for example. Had the proponents written it to say it prohibited regulations with a primary effect or intent of transferring an economic benefit, they would have avoided this problem. I think the failure to write it this way is intentional. I'll also note some incredibly disingenous discussion at the Volokh website that completely ignores this issue.

Other reasons to vote against 98 and for 99 are here. Proposition 99 takes a much more limited approach to dealing with this non-problem; passing 99 with more votes would invalidate 98 and hopefully stop future versions of 98 (which itself is a rehashed version of an initiative that failed in 2006).

Finally, my day job for the last five years involves monitoring land use in Santa Clara County, a 700,000 acre county with 1.6 million people. I don't recall any eminent domain proceedings since I started the job. Where is the problem? I may have missed some proceedings, somewhere, but I'll be even more surprised if they go beyond the standard road-widening issue that would not be affected by Proposition 98. This is just a Trojan Horse scam.

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