8/17/2005

Eminent domain delay makes sense: (Willoughby OH) News-Herald, 8/15/05

Editorial

With taxpayer dollars spent daily to investigate the financial fiasco at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation and an ethics investigation swirling around Gov. Bob Taft, it's difficult to imagine more important state business.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, created an issue with its recent eminent domain decision. It has the undivided attention of several state lawmakers - and many Ohioans.

Eminent domain gives government the right to seize private property for a public purpose, like the construction of roads, while providing "just compensation."
The justices ruled in June in the Kelo vs. New London, Conn, case that government can take private property for a private purpose. Years earlier, the court ruled government can seize private property to rid itself from "urban blight."

State Sen. Timothy J. Grendell wants the General Assembly to enact a statewide temporary moratorium on eminent domain. The bill he authored, Senate Bill 167, also establishes a legislative task force to make recommendations to lawmakers on this issue.

The Republican from Chester Township and other lawmakers believe Ohio must reaffirm what is perceived as endangered private property rights stemming from the court decision.

"We have to move quickly to protect the private property rights of Ohioans," Grendell said.

He is correct. The moratorium will allow state legislators to take their time to carefully weigh all facets of this difficult issue.

Lawmakers must examine all aspects of eminent domain since its potential for abuse is questioned by many Ohioans in light of the high court decision.

The idea that government can seize private property for another private purpose has stirred the emotions of many Americans. For example, the selectmen of Weare, N.H., which is where U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter lives, rejected the request by a California entrepreneur to seize Souter's farm to build the "Lost Liberty Hotel," according to several reports.

That fever-pitch response hasn't struck Ohio.

Lawmakers must perform their due diligence with thoughtful deliberation and develop a measured response - if they do anything at all.

The moratorium will give them the time they need.


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