BILL NUMBER: S1670
TITLE OF BILL :
An act to amend the transportation law, in relation to enacting the
"eminent domain ombudsman act"
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL :
This bill would create an Eminent Domain Ombudsman to help citizens
understand the state's eminent domain process as well act as a
mediator between affected citizens and government entities.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS :
The bill would add a new §23 to the Transportation Law.
* The ombudsman would be appointed by the commissioner.
* The ombudsman will be required to:
* have expertise about the Eminent Domain Law.
* work with state agencies and local governments in developing fair
* assist government with analyzing actions with eminent domains
* advise property owners who have a claim,
* provide information to private citizens,
* inform civic groups and other interested parties about the law, and
* help mediate disputes.
The power of eminent domain is an important governmental tool to move
forward on critical public projects. However, affected citizens are
often not fully aware of their rights. On the other hand, government
entities that are in the process of condemning property also do not
fully understand their role and responsibility in condemnation
proceedings. Since the process is complex condemnation proceedings
often lead to increased conflict and resentment between affected
citizens and governmental entities.
A. Need for the Eminent Domain Ombudsman
The Eminent Domain Ombudsman would help reduce tension between
government and citizens, provide key information to citizens and
government about the process and help facilitate an amenable
resolution between all parties. Most important, the law would allow
citizens to consult with an expert about their rights and
responsibilities. Many citizens often do not know where to turn for
information or cannot afford legal representation throughout an entire
condemnation proceeding. While the ombudsman will not be able to
officially represent individuals, the office will be able to provide
expert knowledge and mediation assistance.
B. Success in Other States
This bill is modeled on the Utah Ombudsman which has been highly
successful. Data from Utah support the importance and success of an
ombudsman position. First, it has been a great information source that
has provided clarity about the process. Various people and groups in
Utah use the ombudsman as a resource. In a recent survey many used the
ombudsman's office as a resource in Utah including property owners,
government officials, and other professionals. OMBUDSMAN'S REPORT ON
PRIVATE PROPERTY , Craig M. Call: Utah Ombudsman (June 2003).
In Utah, the ombudsman has been successful in mediating between
parties, finding amicable resolution to condemnation proceedings, and
providing key information about the process. Specifically:
* Information Source - Utah's Ombudsman has been successful at
educating citizens and local governments of their rights in
condemnation proceedings. In addition, the Ombudsman has been a
valuable source of informational materials including creating easy to
understand informational materials.
* Dispute Resolution - Utah's Ombudsman has successfully resolved
various disputes between parties. As the Utah report states, "Without
imposing his own view, the Ombudsman can often pass along ideas for
settlement from one party to another. Careful listening to the real
intent and desire of each party can often suggest middle ground that
resolves a dispute." OMBUDSMAN'S REPORT ON PRIVATE PROPERTY , Craig
M. Call: Utah Ombudsman (June 2003).
The Utah report further states that, "the Ombudsman's office has
succeeded in reducing the amount of time, cost and hassle involved in
disputes... AND the great majority of the more than 200 cases
involving the Ombudsman's office were resolved without legal action
and without the parties having to be satisfied with impasse." Like the
Eminent Domain Notification Act of 2004, this bill would greatly aid
citizens and government to understand and wade through a condemnation
process. The eminent domain ombudsman will be able to provide expert
knowledge, act as a mediator, and hopefully resolve all issues
surrounding condemnation proceedings. The eminent domain ombudsman has
a proven track record that would be a common sense effort to add more
transparency and accountability to any condemnation process.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :
2006: Senate Transportation Cmte./Assembly Judiciary Cmte.
2007: Senate Transportation Cmte./Assembly Judiciary Cmte.
FISCAL IMPACTS :
To be determined.
EFFECTIVE DATE :
This act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after it
shall have become a law.