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The Planet

State Bills Take a Licking--

But Takings Time Bomb Keeps on Ticking

The Planet, July 1994, Volume 1, number 1

As state lawmakers pondered a takings bill in 1992, Arizona's Tribune newspapers editorialized:

"The bill will require the attorney general's office to analyze every rule and regulation to see if it will 'affect' anyone's property. If it does, the state will have to compensate that property owner.

"That means that not only will the state's attorneys have to spend massive amounts of time--not to mention your money--making all these detailed determinations, [but] you may well wind up pulling out your wallet to compensate property owners who have been over-dumping pesticides (you made their property less valuable by forbidding that), polluting the groundwater (same reason), polluting the air, etc."

While such logic was lost on Arizona's elected officials--the bill was approved and signed, and is now the subject of a ballot referendum--most states have given thumbs-down to takings initiatives.

More than 40 states have had takings bills introduced since 1992. Twenty-three have denied approval, either voting outright to reject them or declining to take action.

Takings bills have passed in 11 sates. But Sierra Club leaders say most of these bills were heavily amended during the legislative process to address environmental concerns. Three state takings statutes--those approved in Arizona, Mississippi and Utah--are regarded as potentially serious threats to the environment.

Despite environmentalists' success at the state level, Club leaders warn that takings bills, once defeated, often return, and note that many elected officials continue to evidence a desire to "do something about takings."

For example, in Florida, Oregon and Washington state--two of which have already turned back takings bills--ballot initiatives are now circulating that seek either a takings amendment to the state constitution or enactment of a takings law.

In Arizona, Sierra Club and other environmental activists succeeded in blocking implementation of that state's takings bill by getting it placed on this November's ballot.

Thus far, the state scorecard is as follows:

Approved: Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia (study only), Washington, West Virginia.

Rejected: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Still under consideration: Alabama California, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina.

"We need the help of Sierra Club members in every state to defeat these bills every time they come up,"
said Paula Carrell, the Club's state program coordinator, "and to continue to educate the public about the absurdity of the takings argument and the real intentions of its proponents."

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