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BILL INTRODUCED BY SEN. DeFRANCISCO WOULD LIMIT EMINENT DOMAIN

Only True Public Projects Would Be Allowed & Approval by an Elected Body Required

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that condemning the private property of one party to transfer it to another private party was a "public use" under the Fifth Amendment, if economic development or increased tax revenues were projected by the government agency.

The powerful organizations representing municipalities oppose any changes to the law determining which properties can be condemned, except for refining the definition of "blight." But the property owners want eminent domain restricted to true public uses. This is exactly what John A. DeFrancisco (R, Syracuse), the Chair of the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee, proposes in his bill (S. 5938) to reform the state's eminent domain laws. In a November 30, 2005 letter to Carol LaGrasse, he outlined his reforms:

"This bill has three main components. First, it limits the use of eminent domain to true public projects, such as the construction of highways, schools, or parks. Next, this bill requires that any use of eminent domain by industrial development agencies must be approved by an elected body, such as a county legislature. Finally, S.5938 allows the owner of property taken by eminent domain to receive relocation costs on top of 'just compensation.'"

The second feature of Sen. DeFrancisco's bill corresponds with one of the eminent domain reforms proposed by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, to require that an elected body must grant approval before unelected authorities can exercise eminent domain. The Senator has also proposed a constitutional amendment (S. 5961) restricting the use of eminent domain to true public projects.

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