By Duncan Smith
Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to orders from governors and mayors to shutter businesses indefinitely as a way to ‘bend the coronavirus curve.’
Yet, now that the curve has been bent, as so inarticulately but plainly stated by Barstool Sports owner Dave Portnoy in a viral video posted online Thursday, many (mostly Democratic) governors and mayors are not lifting restrictions.
In fact, in places like Los Angeles, Michigan, New York, and other localities, officials are extending their lockdown orders.
Well, a state Republican lawmaker in Minnesota may have found a way to not only make businesses great again but to ensure that governors and mayors think twice before quickly moving to shut down their economies in the future.
As PJ Media reports:
One enterprising state lawmaker in Minnesota has posed an interesting question: What if state and local governments had to compensate businesses for the mandated closures in the same way they have to compensate landowners when they use eminent domain to seize their property for roads?
Such a bill would not only provide businesses a way to make themselves whole after lockdowns but it would also make governors and local officials more hesitant to extend the orders shutting down broad swaths of the economy.
Rep. Shane Mekeland, a victim of politically-motivated violence that was brought on by Democratic leaders, introduced H.F. 4651, legislation allowing business owners to request compensation for lost income and lost property due to a peace-time emergency order.
Mekeland said during an interview Wednesday on a local talk radio show that the idea struck him after one of his father’s friends lost his property due to an eminent domain action and had to fight for the ‘just compensation’ he is automatically due under the U.S. Constitution.
In recent weeks, he said “businesses are calling us daily, looking for some kind of help somewhere” due to the lockdowns. So it struck him to “put this type of executive action in the same bucket as eminent domain.”
“An owner … may bring an action in district court to compel the state to commence condemnation proceedings and payment of just compensation for loss of income during, and for a reasonable period of time after, a temporary partial or complete closure of the business that would not have occurred but for compliance with the executive order; or loss of going concern, including the loss of real property, if the closure of the business results in the owner going out of business and the owner would not have gone out of business but for compliance with the executive order,” the bill, H.F. 4651, states, according to a copy provided to PJ Media.
It adds that the business owner “has the burden of proving that the loss is due to the executive order and proving the amount of compensation for losses.” The owner also has to file a claim within a year of the order in question.
Jeff O’Brien, Mekeland’s lawyer, said the bill doesn’t seek to provide ‘relief’ like recent federal coronavirus bills, but just compensation called for under the Constitution.
“What we need is an expansion of our eminent domain laws,” O’Brien said.
“Why should somebody be treated differently for having a business shut down for an executive order versus having a chunk of their land taken for a highway?” the lawyer asked. “The idea behind it is, ‘Fine, government, you have this public purpose, you have to do this, but you need to go find your checkbook because you don’t just get to take something from someone.’ You can’t take something from a citizen and not pay them for it.”
Interesting concept. And if it caught on, it’d be one way to limit the ‘overreach’ of state officials who, as we’re now seeing, don’t want to let go of the incredible powers they have assumed, such as the literal power to pick and choose which businesses survive and which ones are left to die on the vine.