1998 Scorecard Vote
Sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Property Rights Implementation Act of 1998, S. 2271, combines two House-passed takings or so-called "property rights" bills. The bill contains language similar to H.R. 992 (as introduced) which would significantly amend most federal environmental laws, allow polluters to newly challenge long settled federal environmental protections and invite massive forum shopping by industries in search of responsive courts (See House vote 1).
S. 2271 also incorporates provisions of H.R. 1534 (LCV 1997 Scorecard, House vote 3). Like H.R. 1534, S. 2271 would override existing local procedures to allow developers to challenge city and county zoning and other property safeguards directly in the federal court system instead of through existing local administrative appeals and state courts.
The Supreme Court has held that land developers or other property owners must first try to resolve land disputes through local administrative appeals and in state courts before filing a lawsuit in federal court claiming a "taking" of private property. S. 2271 attempts to reverse these precedents to allow claimants to bypass local procedures and state courts. Small towns, cities, and counties would be pressured to avoid the costs of defending against premature and even meritless court challenges of local environmental and public health protections. Large developers could use the threat of expensive federal lawsuits to intimidate local communities into permitting inappropriate activities, such as corporate hog farms in floodplains and hazardous waste dumps in residential areas.
By combining these two proposals, S. 2271 would threaten both federal environmental laws and local zoning.
S. 2271 was opposed by virtually every state and local government organization, including the National Governors Association, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, National Conference of State Legislatures, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Also opposing the bill were major religious organizations, including the U.S. Catholic Conference and the National Council of Churches, and national and local historic preservation, planning, labor, and conservation groups. Prior to the Senate vote, the Clinton administration threatened to veto the bill. Floor opposition was led by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Chafee (R-RI).
On July 13, 1998, the Senate voted 52 - 42 on a motion to proceed to consideration of S. 2271--short of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster against the bill. (Senate debate on an issue can continue indefinitely without a final vote on passage unless 60 senators vote to invoke "cloture" to cut off debate.) NO is the pro-environment vote.