Amendment 74: Payback for government takings

Type: Change in state constitution. 55 percent required for passage.

The issue: Should the government reimburse property owners for a loss in market value caused by the passage of a law or regulation?

Right now, the government has to reimburse property owners when taking away their land through eminent domain. But not if the government devalues the land by restricting what can be done with it. This happens all the time, through zoning rules, water regulations, environmental protections — even something as simple as prohibiting a strip club or firing range from popping up next to a school could be perceived as government depleting the land’s value.

This amendment would change that, requiring the government to reimburse property owners any time it adopts a new law or regulation that negatively affects someone’s land value, even without taking their land from them. Importantly, this also extends to mineral rights, such as oil and natural gas.

The ramifications: This one’s a doozy. On its own, it could be a headache for city planners and state regulators, who would have to start considering adjacent land values in every decision they make. But couple it with the setback proposal to push oil and gas drilling away from neighborhoods, parks, lakes and streams, and the state could be on the hook for billions in compensation to oil and gas companies.

For more: Read the measure and ballot analysis. And check out reporter Mark Jaffe’s excellent explainer of how this and the setback initiative could be a costly combination.