Eminent domain ballot issue eyed Measure would apply rule to cities: Bedford OH Record-Courier, 8/17/07

By Marc Kovac

An Akron-area Republican this week reintroduced a ballot issue that would allow voters to decide whether eminent domain laws should apply in Ohio's cities.

State Sen. Kevin Coughlin, from Cuyahoga Falls, said Senate Joint Resolution 3 is essentially identical to SJR 1, which he introduced at the start of the session. The only change would be the election date, which would be pushed back to November 2008 if lawmakers give their approval sometime in the next 12 months.

The earlier measure passed the state Senate by a party-line vote of 21-11 with Sen. Jason Wilson, a Democrat from Columbiana, joining the majority. It did not find enough support to pass the other chamber, however, failing in the House, 56-42. Sixty votes were needed.

Eminent domain refers to the process by which government entities take possession of private land, generally for public uses.

Coughlin's proposal would ban the use of eminent domain for economic development - that is, for a government entity to take land from one private property owner and transfer it to another for redevelopment. And it would empower the Legislature to set regulations for eminent domain, including in cities where home rule allows standards to be established locally.

Legislation was approved by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Ted Strickland earlier this summer changing state law on the use of eminent domain. But the new law, which will take effect October, will not apply to home-rule municipalities.

Through his joint resolution, Coughlin hopes to place that issue before voters, in the form of a constitutional amendment.

"I think we need to continue to make the case that this is an important issue," he said. "It's really the difference between looking like you are for property rights and actually being for property rights."

Coughlin said he intends to work with House Democrats who may be on the fence on the issue with hopes of convincing them to change their votes on the reintroduced resolution.

"People who live in cities should have the same guarantees people in townships have," he said.

Bedford OH Record-Courier: http://www.recordpub.com