Property Rights Showdown in House Expected Wednesday

The House Resources Committee is is facing a showdown on property rights Wednesday.

Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf’s bill to allow preservation groups to create a federally-funded “management entity” to influence land-use decisions in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia is scheduled for a vote March 7 in the House Resources Committee.

Wolf’s proposal would earmark a minimum of ten million federal taxpayer dollars to the special interest preservation groups’ “mamagement entity.” The bill recommends that the management entity disburse its taxpayer-subsidized windfall to “states and their political subdivisions” to promote the land use policies the preservation groups favor.

The management entity would have substantial influence over land use decisions in the four states, but citizens of those states would not be permitted to vote on its leadership.

The interest groups slated to receive the funding fought proposals, such as Proposition 7 and Proposition 37 in Oregon, to require that government compensate property owners when it takes the owner’s land.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), whose district would be covered by the legislation, has offered a competing bill for the Committee’s consideration. The Bartlett bill includes no provisions for providing taxpayer funds to interest groups. The Bartlett bill would require local governments wishing to participate in the National Heritage Area to provide fair market value compensation to property owners in their jurisdiction if their property is devalued as a result of government action.

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