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Friday, October 07, 2005

Lawmakers disagree over changes to Eminent Domain law

Seems like changes to the eminent domain law is going to be somewhat harder than expected.

From The New London Day
The General Assembly is going to alter the government's right to seize private property. The lawmakers leading the effort to review eminent domain statutes were sure of at least that much.

But on Thursday, after a six-hour public hearing on five conflicting reform proposals set before the Judiciary Committee, disagreement seemed as deep as ever between those who consider the taking of a home as the deepest abrogation of American ideals and those who find in the power to do so an impoverished city's final hope to save itself.

“I think there's a general willingness to do an eminent domain bill as soon as there's agreement on what needs to be done,” said Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, the committee's co-chairman, in a brief interview in his office.

But notwithstanding the furor of eminent domain opponents after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld New London's seizure of homes on the Fort Trumbull peninsula for an economic development project, or the political payback those same opponents have promised at the polls, Lawlor said convening a special session might be pointless now.

After all, he noted, no one has agreed on what to do.

After Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered the New London Development Corp. to reverse its decision to begin the process of eviction last month, Lawlor said, the state's “voluntary moratorium” on eminent domain use appears to be working, giving the legislators time to deliberate on changing the law.

“I don't see how doing it now versus doing it in March makes a big difference,” he said.

House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, disagrees. On Thursday he repeated his call to convene a special session, formalize the moratorium, and eventually strip the use of eminent domain for private economic development entirely out of state statutes.

That was just one in a diverse group of bills reviewed Thursday, which varied from Ward's to a careful rewriting of that section of the law that would require municipalities to more explicitly declare the public benefits and necessities of such takings, but would preserve them as a proper use of eminent domain.