On April 3rd, Carol W. LaGrasse, President of the Property Rights Foundation of America will testify before a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Albany conducted by Senate Judiciary Chairman John A. DeFrancisco (R., Syracuse) on three eminent domain reform bills that are currently in the Judiciary Committee of the New York State Senate and another bill that is in draft stage.
In previous testimony before the New York State Legislature, LaGrasse has expressed the opinion that the Supreme Court’s June 2005 Kelo v. New London eminent domain decision was unconstitutional. The decision gave eminent domain carte blanche to government, she says, leaving property owners without the protection of the Constitution. She has been advocating that the state’s eminent domain law be reformed to prohibit any use of eminent domain to take property from one private owner to transfer it to another private owner, with no exceptions for blight or public health and safety, thereby requiring that eminent domain be used only for traditional public uses, such as highways, parks, or schools.
In addition, LaGrasse has been urging reforms to the eminent domain process to create a more level playing field for property owners, such as better compensation to property owners and the establishment of an eminent domain ombudsman, which is a property owner advocacy office.
The three bills in the Judiciary Committee are Sen. Marcellino’s S. 5936 to provide that the power of eminent domain only be exercised for economic development when the property being taken is blighted; Sen. DeFrancisco’s S. 5938/A.9079 to clarify the purposes for public projects for which property may be acquired by eminent domain and to subject eminent domain by an industrial development agency to a vote by the local legislature; and Sen. DeFrancisco’s S. 5961/A. 9710 to enact a Constitutional Amendment to permit eminent domain takings only when the taking is for a truly public use, prohibiting economic development takings or for the benefit of a private business, and prohibiting taking private property to transfer it to another private owner.
The bill in draft stage, by Sen. Alesi, would create an Office of Eminent Domain Ombudsman, would require a vote by a local government to endorse or reject a taking of private property by a private developer, require that the condemnee be reimbursed for relocation costs and require that the condemnor make a base officer of the highest appraisal plus replacement costs. The bill would also create a temporary commission on eminent domain reform.
Carol W. LaGrasse, Property Rights Foundation of America Inc,
Box 75, Stony Creek NY 12878, 518-696-5748