We should be grateful to Tim Sandefur over at the [linked] PLF on Eminent Domain blog for reminding us about the upcoming battle between two competing eminent domain propositions that will be on the California ballot this fall. The Howard Jarvis tax-cutting folks have qualified Proposition 98 for the November ballot, in an effort to curb the abusive exercise of eminent domain. Concerned about the horrible prospect of not being able to take anything, for any purpose at any time, the City Hall denizens (who thought that condemning the Oakland Raiders football team was just hunky dory) have sponsored a competing, weaselworded Proposition 99 that claims to do the same but actually falls short, and does not really offer any more protection than the current law, with the possible exception of protecting single-family, owner-occupied homes from condemnation for pure economic redevelopment (which in California you ostensibly can’t do anyway). Even that sop is subject to exceptions. Proposition 99 will also appear on the November ballot where it will compete with Proposition 98.
While we welcome any improvement in the law of eminent domain, and any discussion of the subject that has any chance of elevating public understanding, we sure don’t look forward to the upcoming electioneering spectacle provided by TV commercials. Being of the curmudgeonly persuasion, we take it as largely incontestable that when it comes to TV ads supporting or opposing ballot initiatives in general, you can bet the farm that what you are likely to hear isn’t true. How do we know that? It’s obvious: the TV spokespersons’ lips are moving. But hey man, it’s California.
So one of these days we will tug on our bootstraps real hard and elevate ourselves to the extent of saying something on the merits — if that’s what they are — of these propositions.
In the meantime, read Tim Sandefur’s blog, since he, being a public spirited dude, has posted the text of those Propositions for your edification, assuming that reading them is capable of producing that effect rather than an urgent need to take a nap. As you tackle that task, think good thoughts about Proposition 98 and vote for it when the time comes, for in an imperfect world it’s better than nothing and one hell of a lot better than Proposition 99. As for us, we’ll try not to think about that stuff for now, and (unless driven beyond endurance) will refrain from saying anything on this subject until we get closer to the election.
So write this down: VOTE YES ON 98 and NO ON 99, and then put your note on the refrigerator door so you can be reminded to do right every time you get yourself a cold beer which is optional, but recommended when you try to grapple with what passes for eminent domain law. You can trust us on that.