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2007 Eminent Domain Report Card: Connecticut Gets An “F”

Arlington, Va.—Connecticut home and small business owners have reason to be concerned according to a 50-state eminent domain report card released today. In the two years since the infamous Kelo eminent domain ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed eminent domain for private gain in Connecticut, the state’s General Assembly failed to pass any meaningful eminent domain reform.

“Connecticut’s homeowners are no more protected from eminent domain abuse today than they were the day the Kelo decision was announced,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, a national grassroots organization that examined and graded eminent domain laws for each of the 50 states since the Kelo ruling. Read the report at: www.CastleCoalition.org/publications/report_card.

According to the report, “In 2006 the legislature managed to pass a bill that merely creates a property rights ombudsman, and then failed to fill the position for a year. At the end of the 2007 session, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 167 with nearly unanimous support. The bill was easy to agree on because it does almost nothing to curb eminent domain abuse in Connecticut.” The bill purports to stop condemnations “primarily” for economic development and requires municipalities to pass approval by a “super-majority.” Unfortunately, SB 167 offers no substantive property rights protections because when cities are determined to see a project approved, they can easily assert an alternative “primary purpose” for a condemnation and are usually of one mind when it comes to voting. Even if the governor signs SB 167, Connecticut will continue to have some of the most broad and easily abused eminent domain laws in the nation.

Among the states that passed the strongest reforms protecting property owners are Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota, each of which received an A or A- grade. States that received F’s were: Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

“In only two years since Kelo, 41 states have reformed their laws to offer greater protection to small property owners,” said Jenifer Zeigler, legislative affairs attorney with the Castle Coalition. “But much more work remains if homeowners, small business owners, churches and farmers in Connecticut and beyond are to be safe from the unholy alliance of tax-hungry governments and land-hungry developers.”

The report seeks to step back and evaluate the legislative work that has been done and is left to do. It finds, “Some states have passed model reforms that can serve as an example for others. Some states enacted nominal reform—possibly because of haste, oversight or compromise—and need to know what is left to fix. And finally, there are those states that have failed to act altogether, leaving home, farm, and business owners threatened by Kelo-type takings and beyond.”
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[NOTE: To arrange interviews on this subject, journalists may call John Kramer, the Institute for Justice’s vice president for communications, at (703) 682-9320 ext. 205 or in the evening/weekend at (703) 527-8730.]

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