Gov. Matt Blunt and most of his colleagues created eminent domain task forces in response to Kelo v. New London, a U.S. Supreme Court case from June in which the court ruled for the first time that condemnation of private property solely for economic development was constitutional.
Economic development officials throughout the state fear a backlash from the ruling, which left the door open for eminent domain reform on the state level. And the preliminary report just issued provides some justifications for those concerns.
A final report is scheduled to be filed with Blunt on Dec. 31, and after convening in January, Missouri lawmakers could follow suit with colleagues in 28 states who have introduced more than 70 bills to restrict the use of eminent domain.
Some legislators have introduced constitutional amendments in their states to prohibit the use of eminent domain for private projects or to tighten eminent domain procedures. For example, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley signed a law that prohibits the state, cities and counties from taking private property for retail, office, commercial, industrial or residential development.
The "key considerations" listed in the Missouri task force's report are not that specific.
But one consideration calls for "a different condemnation process," including more public input and planning, when the use of eminent domain is proposed for economic development purposes.
"Providing an interlocutory appeal process to allow the courts to review the decision before the property is condemned" for economic development purposes also "could be helpful," the task force said.
The task force also suggested new guidelines to ensure good faith negotiations between the condemning authority and the landowner, a more fair valuation process and "some form of penalty ... if a condemning authority is found guilty of 'low-balling' on value."
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