Land Survey

Scoring Congress on property rights


The burgeoning property-rights movement is gaining attention and winning influence nationwide. (See "Preservation Acts," October.) Now a grass-roots group that represents more than 16,000 land owners has tallied how individual members of the 103rd Congress voted on property-rights bills.

The Fairness to Land Owners Committee recorded the votes of every member of the House of Representatives on: components of the proposed National Biological Survey; the bill that would elevate the Environmental Protection Agency to cabinet status; an amendment to the California Desert Protection Act; co-sponsorship of bills to reform wetlands regulations and the Endangered Species Act, and to compensate property owners when government regulations reduce the value of their land; and co-sponsorship of a discharge petition that would bring that compensation bill to the House floor for a vote.

Peggy Riegle, president of the FLOC, says the group didn't publish a Senate index because the only votes that body conducted on property-rights issues were voice votes.

Sixty-nine representatives voted with the property-rights movement every time–63 Republicans and six Democrats. All the Democrats are from the South except Gary Condit, who represents the Central Valley of California and who replaced former Majority Whip (and current de facto Democratic Party head) Tony Coelho in 1989.

By contrast, 88 members voted against property rights on every occasion–84 Democrats, three Republicans, and Independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

"Our people have used these tallies to go after their [representatives]," says Riegle. "We've found they have to be intimidated" before they will defend property rights.