The controversy over a “takings” bill was set aside at the end of the legislative session. But that’s not the end of the issue. Proponents and opponents both predicted the debate would be revived at the legislature next year.
If a government action reduces your property value by more than 50 percent, should you be compensated? Most people would say yes, of course. But that is where the agreement ends. The difficulty of determining that 50 percent of the value of your property has been taken, and creating a system to compensate you for that loss, makes this a very complicated and difficult issue.
No solid evidence was submitted to demonstrate that property values had diminished more than 50 percent by an action of the government. Some people cited shoreland zoning as an example – but the legislation exempted that, and all other action at the municipal level. It applied only to future action by the state government.
This was one of the more interesting legislative battles, extending from the 2011 session into the 2012 session, even though it ended with a whimper, with a vote to “indefinitely postponement” the bill in the Senate.
Here’s how the two sides summed up their takings bill battle this session.
Tom Doak, Executive Director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, wrote this in the June issue of SWOAM News.
“The House-passed version would have allowed landowners to be compensated when regulation reduces their property value by 50 percent or more. The alternative version (majority report) that would have established a “complaint committee” to hear landowner grievances also failed. The minority report was considered by some to be too complex, while the majority report really didn’t do anything. The gap between the two made it impossible to reach a compromise. I have no doubt the issue will be back next year.”
And here’s how Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Jenn Burns Gray of Maine Audubon, and Maureen Drouin of Maine Conservation Voters presented their final report on the issue.
“The legislature defeated a controversial ‘regulatory takings’ bill that would have cost Maine taxpayers millions of dollars, caused a proliferation of lawsuits, and blocked future laws that may be necessary to protect Maine’s environment, people, and communities… This risky, costly, and radical proposal would have undermined the laws that protect Maine’s environment and communities. Despite a massive effort by lobbyists to force this dangerous bill through the legislature, a bipartisan majority held firm and refused to support it. Common sense won the day over ideology.”
The difference in presentations on this issue gives you some insight into the lobbying styles of the two sides on this issue.
Both sides passed up a final opportunity to create a compromise in the Senate, offered by a bipartisan group of Senate and House members, in favor of reengaging on the issue in 2013.