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Rubio, Trump Begin to Spar Over Eminent Domain

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Long before Marco Rubio was running for president, and even before he was running for the Senate, the Florida Republican was tasked with crafting a state response to a Supreme Court case that had expanded the power of government.  

Rubio’s presidential campaign has decided to remind people that as a state lawmaker, he stopped Florida municipalities from following the lead of New London, Conn., in taking private property through eminent domain for the benefit of a private development under the Constitution’s “Takings Clause.”  

“One of my proudest accomplishments as a public servant was leading the effort in Florida to pass both a law and a constitutional amendment to keep private developers from using eminent domain to take property away from private owners. This effort became necessary after the egregiously flawed Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision made private use of eminent domain legal unless states banned it. In the years since, the legislation I passed in the Florida House has become a model for states across the country,” Rubio wrote for the conservative website Hot Air.  

“Florida now has some of the strongest laws in the nation protecting homes, businesses, and even houses of worship from being seized by private developers,” Rubio wrote. “This effort earned the state of Florida an ‘A’ grade from the Castle Coalition, which is a nationwide organization established to defend private property from undue seizure.”  

It’s no surprise Rubio would want to talk about his work as chairman of a select committee to address Florida’s eminent domain laws, given that presidential rival and real estate developer Donald Trump called it “a wonderful thing” in a Tuesday interview with Fox News.  

Trump argued that people who have their property seized through the eminent domain process are often compensated well in excess of fair market value as part of broader redevelopment efforts. The Constitution requires the payment of “just compensation.”  

“It’s very rarely that they say I love my house. I love my house. It’s the greatest thing. Because these people buy a house now that’s five times bigger in a better location. So eminent domain when it comes to jobs, roads, the public good — I think it’s a wonderful thing. I’ll be honest with you,” Trump said. “And remember, you’re not taking property — you know the way you asked the question. You’re paying a fortune for that property. Those people can move two blocks away into a much nicer house.”  

In his opinion piece, Rubio indicates that views on the “Takings Clause” (likely in opposition to the 5-4 decision in Kelo) would be something of a test for potential Supreme Court nominees if he wins the White House.  

“When I am president, through the justices I nominate to the Supreme Court and the legislation I sign into law, I will stand firmly against the abuse of eminent domain,” wrote Rubio.

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