Legislators to tackle eminent domain issue: Laconia (NH) Citizen, 9/16/05

By Colin Manning

The issue of eminent domain will be tackled by a joint effort between the [New Hampshire] House and Senate on more than one front.

On Thursday, House Speaker Doug Scamman and Senate President Ted Gatsas announced there will be a constitutional amendment introduced in the House and a proposed changed in statute started in the Senate to ensure the state of New Hampshire doesn't see a similar case as the one that appeared in Connecticut recently.

"We're certainly going to go down the road united. We will propose a constitutional amendment to make sure this slide doesn't continue any further and we protect people's rights in the state of New Hampshire," Scamman said.

The issue of eminent domain is a major policy discussion at the Statehouse in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the taking of private land for private development, known as the Kelo case out of New London, Conn. Scamman and Gatsas said the Legislature will focus on narrowing the law so that eminent domain will only be instituted in instances of a "public use" as opposed to a public benefit.

"We will be defining what a public use is. We'll also propose an amendment to the constitution to make sure any future interpretation is clear," Scamman added. Both lawmakers said they do not want to introduce changes which would halt so-called urban renewal. "If someone's property is turned over to a developer to have a strip mall built, that's not what people are looking for," Gatsas said.

The newly named Senate president also said a proposed constitutional amendment will be simply worded. "We want to be precise and to the point ... so when my mother goes to the polls she can read it and make a choice," Gatsas said. Neither Scamman nor Gatsas could offer any details as to what the language in the proposed bill or amendment will say. The Legislature convenes in January.

Laconia Citizen: www.citizen.com