Yankee Dawdle

An attempt to limit eminent domain keeps stalling

In the two years since the U.S. Supreme Court approved the use of eminent domain in the controversial Kelo v. The City of New London, 40 states have passed laws restraining the use of eminent domain. But not Connecticut, where Kelo originated.

As of late May, two competing bills to rein in eminent domain awaited votes in Connecticut's Senate. If neither one clears both houses by June 6, lawmakers will have to start from scratch when they return from a scheduled seven-month break.

What's taking so long? First off, it looks kind of bad for lawmakers to amend a law they successfully defended before the Supreme Court. But others say it's only prudent to tread carefully around a policy used to spur economic growth. "Many states have reacted to Kelo v. New London with an absolute ban on eminent domain for economic development, which is a mistake," says Jeremy Paul, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Bill Von Winkle, who owned the Fort Trumbull Deli before Kelo forced him to move, isn't buying it. "The new eminent domain laws will absolutely help small businesses in other states," he says. "They have to change the law here quickly before it happens again." As for the properties scheduled to rise on his old site, the developer, Corcoran Jennison, has yet to break ground.

By Amy S. Choi

Edited by Jeremy Quittner

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