New Hampshire Enacts Meaningful Eminent Domain Reform

SB 287 Prohibits Kelo Takings and Tightens Definition of Blight

PRESS RELEASE: June 27, 2006

John Kramer
Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320

Arlington, Va.—On Friday, June 23, 2006, exactly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed into law Senate Bill 287, legislation that provides citizens with meaningful protection against eminent domain for private profit. 

SB 287, which sailed through both legislative houses, explicitly states, “Public use shall not include the public benefits resulting from private economic development and private commercial enterprise, including increased tax revenues and increased employment opportunities.”  While the bill continues to allow the use of eminent domain for the elimination of so-called “blight,” SB 287 requires that an individual property, as opposed to an area, be a “menace to health and safety.”  Thanks to the efforts of State Sen. Bob Odell and State Rep. Maureen Mooney, who chaired Senate and House study committees on eminent domain, the bill passed with overwhelming support. 

“We commend New Hampshire lawmakers for providing citizens with meaningful and comprehensive protection against eminent domain abuse,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner, who authored Opening the Floodgates, documenting more than 5,700 filed or threatened condemnations in just the one year since Kelo.  “This common sense reform is exactly what the Live Free or Die state needed.  Blight no longer means whatever a bureaucrat or planner wants it to mean.”

IJ Senior Attorney Scott Bullock, who argued Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court, agreed and added, “This is one of the strongest reform bills passed in response to Kelo.  New Hampshire legislators understand what defenders of eminent domain abuse still do not—that Kelo created a big problem for the states to fix, that economic development will undoubtedly continue without eminent domain, and that every home, business, farm and place of worship needed protection against condemnation for private gain.”

Since Kelo, legislators in 47 states have introduced, considered or passed legislation aimed at curbing eminent domain abuse.  Twenty-five states have passed reforms.            

In addition to SB 287, the House and Senate put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2006 ballot.  If passed by the voters, the amendment would prohibit the use of eminent domain “if the taking is for the purpose of private development or other private use of the property.”

Berliner concluded, “This statutory reform, combined with the constitutional amendment, will no doubt stop the abuse of eminent domain in New Hampshire.”