During the early part of 2005, there has been very little activity in the arena of federal legislation that was proposed following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London to address abuses that have occurred in the exercise of the eminent domain power. House bill H.R. 4128 (PDF), also known as the Private Property Acts of 2005, which passed that body on November 3, 2005, has not been further acted upon by the Senate. Interestingly, the most recent movement in Congress, albeit small, has been directed toward House bill H.R. 4088 (PDF) known as the Protect Our Homes Act, which was referred to the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity on January 4, 2006. This proposed legislation, if enacted into law, would eliminate a State’s or local government’s eligibility to receive federal financial assistance under any program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development when any such government entity failed to abide by the prerequisites to condemnation therein set forth. In New Jersey, there has been a flurry of recent activity in the area of eminent domain reform, with legislative proposals being directed towards how and when local governments may take private property located within redevelopment zones. For example, on January 10, 2006, Senators Gill and Allen reintroduced their bill from last legislative session as Senate bill S501, which would amend the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1, et. seq., to prohibit the use of eminent domain to acquire residential property. This proposed legislation would also require the designation of redevelopment areas by ordinance rather than by resolution. A companion bill in the State Assembly has also been introduced (A537), which on February 6, 2006, was transferred to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee. Senate bill S156 reintroduced from last session by Senator Connors is a bit stronger than S501/A537 and, if enacted into law, would amend the LRHL to prevent the use of eminent domain to acquire both residential and other private property. The Connors bill also proposes, among other things, that every redevelopment entity make “a declaration of public purpose” prior to undertaking any action to acquire any property by condemnation within an area in need of redevelopment. Another example of proposed legislation at the state level is Assembly bill A1220, which is intended to amend the LRHL to make all condemnation effected thereunder for private economic development subject to voter approval. This bill, which is was reintroduced from last session by Assemblyman Diegnan, would also require all area in need of redevelopment designations to be approved by the Department of Community Affairs before they could become effective. In addition to specific legislative proposals, some State legislators have taken the position that the whole concept of using government power to acquire property for such purposes as redevelopment needs to be further evaluated, and that government must be prevented from engaging this sort of condemnation activity until this study has been completed. Recently introduced in the State Senate is a bill (S211) that proposes to place a moratorium for a period of 24 months on the use of eminent domain for “any purpose other than the direct use of the property by the State, county, or municipality, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, as appropriate.” Senate bill S211 would also create a new body known as the Eminent Domain Study Commission, “which shall conduct an examination of the use and application of eminent domain in the State[,]” and “issue a final report to the Governor, and to every member of this Senate and the General Assembly[.]” A companion bill introduced in the Assembly as A2423 would increase the moratorium period proposed by the Senate to 48 months. The employment of a constitutional amendment is one other approach that certain members of the State Legislature are considering to effect eminent domain reform across New Jersey. Specifically, Senators Inverso and Allen have reintroduced their proposed amendment to Article VIII, Section III, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution to limit the exercise of eminent domain to “essential public purposes” and specifically excludes redevelopment activities “undertaken by a private corporation”. This proposed amendment was referred to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee on February 6, 2006. It is uncertain what the fate of the aforesaid proposed legislation, moratorium and constitutional amendment will be in the coming months. However, it is interesting to see the impact that one Supreme Court decision has had on political landscape. Technorati Tags: : : : :