Takings Bill a Torpedo Aimed at Maine Legislature
A legislative working group is about to launch a torpedo that could explode when it hits the legislature in January.
LD 1477, The Real Property Protection Bill, could not muster enough votes for enactment in 2011, but it was sent to a special “Regulatory Takings Subcommittee” for more work.
While few know this or are following the committee’s work, the issue could turn out to be a big one at the upcoming legislative session. You can read the resolve that authorizes the committee’s work here.
I recently obtained a memo authored by one committee member that portends a major battle ahead.
Most of the committee’s votes on the key issues have been 8 to 2, with the two negative votes cast by Representative Charlie Priest and Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Didisheim and his organization are key players at the State House, and his opposition to the bill signals a major battle ahead. I have also heard concerns about the bill from the state’s other major environmental groups.
Let’s call this the takings bill and examine the revised version that the committee will complete at its final meeting on November 21. Put simply, the bill would force the state to pay private landowners if any state land use regulations diminish the value of their property by fifty percent or more.
That may sound fair, but the impact of such a law could turn out to be profound. After the legislature gets the bill, I’ll take a closer look at those potential impacts. The current version of the bill is a lawyer’s dream, and I’m no lawyer.
If a “fact finder” determines that a new state regulation has diminished a parcel of land by 50 percent or more, the landowner will be entitled to compensation from the state. Two possibilities exist. In one, the state would pay the full value of the property and buy it. In the other, the state would pay the landowner an amount equal to the lost value. The bill does not seek to create a compensation fund.
The parcel of land might not be the entire ownership. “A parcel may be a subset of a larger ownership,” is the language currently in the revised bill. The bill also says the lost value, “is calculated as to the parcel at issue, without consideration of any additional property the property owner may own.” Perhaps I’ve already lost you here.
As a sportsman, I come at this issue as an advocate for protection of wildlife habitat and water quality. And I’m wondering if such a bill would make it impossible for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to protect critical habitat – such as deer wintering areas, currently a major interest as the agency seeks to rebuild Maine’s deer herd. This is an issue that will need your attention, come January.