One of the most important rights we have as Americans is the right to own private property.

Private property rights have helped create the vibrant, dynamic society we enjoy today. They are essential to our individual independence and to our hopes for a secure and prosperous future — for ourselves and for our children.

That’s why I was so disappointed last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional for a local government in Connecticut to take homes and other private property and give that property to a private developer seeking to build offices, a riverfront hotel and a health club.

I cannot accept the use of eminent domain to take from one private person and give to another private, profit-seeking venture. The strong majority of Iowans feel the same way.

We have not seen similar abuses by local governments in Iowa and we sure don’t want to start now. The best way to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s broad expansion of the uses of eminent domain is for the state of Iowa to put our tradition of very limited use of eminent domain into law.

During the 2006 session, I supported a bipartisan effort in the Legislature and passed House File 2351, which addressed several important issues. Unfortunately, Gov. Vilsack vetoed the legislation. I am disappointed in the veto and I am hopeful that the Legislature will move quickly to protect the property rights of Iowans.

I think it’s in the best interest of all Iowans for the Legislature to come back into special session this summer to pass eminent domain reforms. A special session is the quickest and most certain way to make sure the private property rights of Iowans are safe from the abuses we have seen in other states. I am confident that we can do this with broad support from Republican and Democratic legislators.

That’s why I formally requested a special session this week. If two-thirds of the Iowa House and Senate do the same, we can move quickly to pass new legislation to protect the property rights of Iowans.

When I’m asked about this issue, I think of the homeowners, farmers and small business owners I know who work so hard to develop and improve their property. Our communities shine because of the effort these individuals have invested in the land and buildings they own. You and I both know many people who have spent years building and making a particular part of Iowa better.

It is outrageous to think their property could be given to someone else to make a profit on a hotel, office building or health club. I won’t stop working on this issue until the private property rights of all Iowans are safe and secure.

Roger Stewart, a Democrat from Preston, is a member of the Iowa Senate representing District 13.

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