House Bill 198 would increase the power of eminent domain to a class of people that never had that right before—non-public corporations that are not serving the needs of Montana residents (see “High tension,” March 17, 2011). HB 198 gives foreign and domestic private companies the right to condemn private property without fair and just negotiations with the landowners. This makes a mockery of our right to protect our property.
The backers of HB 198 are being very coy, trying to convince us that the bill really makes no change in longstanding law. But HB 198 expands the ability to condemn other people’s property. It uses the same logic that brought about the reviled Kelo decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.
Our civil and property rights have diminished extensively during the last few years to the point where big-moneyed entities take precedence over our right to operate our farms and ranches that produce the food and fiber for people in the most efficient manner.
This bill is an attack on our existing way of life and our means of making a living as a family farming business. Senators, please stand up for agriculture, Montana’s No. 1 industry, by opposing HB 198.