STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2006 SESSION
Senator DIANE B. ALLEN
District 7 (Burlington and Camden)
Senator JOSEPH CONIGLIO
District 38 (Bergen)
Places temporary moratorium on use of eminent domain; creates Eminent Domain Study Commission to examine its use Statewide.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel
An Act imposing a limited moratorium on certain eminent domain actions and establishing a commission to recommend legislation to end abuse of this power.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Legislature finds and declares that:
On June 23, 2005, the United States Supreme Court rendered its decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 125 S. Ct. 2655 (2005), which allows the taking of private property by eminent domain for the purpose of economic development, even when the ultimate result of the taking is ownership of the property being vested in another private person;
Even though Article VIII, Section III, paragraph 1 of the New Jersey State Constitution declares that the clearance, replanning, development or redevelopment of blighted areas shall be a public purpose and public use, for which private property may be taken or acquired, the Kelo decision has focused widespread attention on the inappropriate use of this power;
Following upon this decision, the Legislature believes that the interpretation and use of the State's eminent domain law should be reviewed to assure that this power is used in responsible fashion and to identify potential legislative remedies to help avoid abuse;
The Legislature is in favor of economic development and its continuation without government officials overstepping their ground;
The Legislature supports builders and developers that use smart growth policies;
Accordingly, the Legislature determines that in order to protect the general welfare and the rights of citizens and to ensure that private property rights are not violated due to the inappropriate use of the eminent domain power, it is necessary to enact a moratorium on any takings of this nature by any public body until further legislative remedies may be considered.
2. Notwithstanding any provision of law, rule or regulation to the contrary, neither the State, a county, a municipality, or their respective agencies or instrumentality thereof, on or after the effective date of this act for a period of 24 months shall use eminent domain for any purpose other than the direct use of the property by the State, county or municipality, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, as appropriate.
3. a. There is established the Eminent Domain Study Commission which shall conduct an examination of the use and application of eminent domain in the State.
b. The Study Commission shall be comprised of eleven members as follows:
(1) Two members shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, one of whom shall represent the New Jersey Builders Association and one of whom shall be a public member with significant expertise in economic development; two members shall be appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly, one of whom shall represent the New Jersey League of Municipalities and one of whom shall be a public member who is Hispanic; two members shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one of whom shall represent the New Jersey Farm Bureau and one of whom shall represent an organization that represents small business; and two members shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly, one of whom shall be a public member who is an African American and one of whom shall represent an environmental organization. The two members appointed by each presiding officer and minority leader shall not be of the same political party.
(2) The Attorney General, Commissioner of Community Affairs and Commissioner of Transportation shall all serve ex officio.
c. The chairman of the Study Commission shall be elected by the commission from among its members.
d. Action may be taken by the Study Commission at any meeting thereof by the affirmative vote of a majority of the full membership of the commission.
e. Members of the Study Commission shall not receive any compensation, but they shall be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.
f. The Study Commission may call to its assistance any employees as are necessary and made available to it from any agency or department of the State or its political subdivisions.
g. The Study Commission shall meet regularly as it may determine, and shall also meet at the call of the chairperson of the board. Meetings of the Study Commission are subject to the "Open Public Meetings Act," P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-6 et seq.).
4. The Eminent Domain Study Commission shall, within 12 months of the appointment of the last member, issue a final report to the Governor, and to every member of the Senate and the General Assembly on the use of eminent domain in the State, with recommendations for any amendments to existing law to assure its responsible use by governmental entities.
The Study Commission shall study the use and procedure of eminent domain and its impact on the State, and particularly the overall impact of State laws governing the use and procedure of eminent domain on economic development, residents and local governments in New Jersey. The Study Commission shall hold at least three public hearings with a hearing in each of the northern, central, and southern geographic areas of the State to elicit public testimony on the use of eminent domain. Notice of these hearings shall be published at least 30 days in advance thereof in at least two newspapers circulating in the specific geographic area where the hearing will be held.
Upon the submission of the report, the Study Commission shall cease to exist.
5. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would place a 24-month moratorium on the exercise of certain eminent domain power by municipalities, or other public entities that exercise this power under delegation by municipalities. The moratorium would apply to the use of eminent domain for any purpose other than the direct use of the subject property by a government entity. One of the effects of this bill would be to place a moratorium on the use of eminent domain to take private property when the primary purpose for the taking is economic development that will ultimately result in ownership of that property being vested in another private person.
In addition, the bill would establish the Eminent Domain Study Commission, which shall conduct an examination of the use, procedure and application of eminent domain in the State. The Study Commission shall be comprised of eleven members: two members each, of different political parties, to be appointed by the presiding and minority officers of the Senate and General Assembly; and the Attorney General, Commissioner of Community Affairs, and Commissioner of Transportation, who shall serve ex officio.
The Study Commission's central purpose is to study the use and procedure of eminent domain in the State and recommend legislation to discourage the abuse of this significant power. Upon the issuance of this report by the Study Commission 12 months after the appointment of the last member, the Study Commission shall cease to exist.