From: Susan Kniep, President
The Federation of Connecticut Taxpayer Organizations, Inc.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
February 23, 2006
newspaper, the Journal Inquirer, featured,
front page, The Federation of Connecticut
Taxpayer Organizations’ call for
Constitutional Convention to address the Eminent Domain issue.
believes the call for a Constitutional Convention in Nov, 2006 is required
Constitution, a position shared by a University
of CT Law Professor and
encourage all Connecticut
citizens who are concerned that they could be impacted
recent Supreme Court decision on Eminent Domain to join with FCTO. We ask that they
their State legislators to impress upon them the necessity to cement within our
protection of their private property rights from government seizure!
v New London
Supreme Court ruling allows government by Eminent Domain to condemn private
property for the financial gain of another private entity. In New Hampshire, all 24 State Senators have recently co-sponsored a bill
which “explicitly states that no private property can be seized for “the public
benefit resulting from private economic development and private commercial
Our Connecticut Legislature
refuses to consider a similar bill.
Last evening, Manchester
newspaper, the Journal Inquirer, featured The Federation of Connecticut
Taxpayer Organizations, Inc. call for the 2006 Constitutional Convention to
address the Eminent Domain issue and the Secretary of State’s refusal to do
so. The issue is in the interpretation
of our Constitution. FCTO’s suggestion
that the voters should be the decision makers in November, 2006 on whether
there should be a Constitutional Convention is shared by University of
Connecticut School of Law professor Richard S. Kay, an expert on Connecticut's
constitution and others.
The following is both the Journal Inquirer article and
FCTO’s Press Release on this matter.
Timing of constitutional vote questioned
By Tom Breen, Journal Inquirer, 02/22/2006
The possibility of a line on the ballot
this November asking voters whether to call a constitutional convention has
come down to a lawyerly dispute over a handful of words in the state
To paraphrase former President Bill
Clinton, it depends on what the meaning of the word "next" is.
A group of state taxpayer organizations argues that the
constitution requires voters to decide this year whether a convention should be
called to amend or revise the constitution.
Spurred by the U.S. Supreme
Court decision last year that allowed New
London to use eminent domain to take private homes to
make space for future economic development, the taxpayer groups want a
constitutional amendment restricting or prohibiting the use of eminent domain.
But Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, who oversees elections and the
statewide ballot, argues the constitution doesn't require the question to be
put before voters this year, but in November 2008.
"We dispute that," Susan Kniep,
president of the Federation of Connecticut
Taxpayer Organizations, says. "We don't think that's the correct reading
of our constitution."
Short of a court challenge, though, there's no way to establish which side is
reading the constitution correctly, meaning that a ballot question on a
constitutional convention is unlikely this fall.
The whole tangled affair starts with the state constitution, ratified in 1965.
In Article 13th, section 2, the constitution requires that the question
"Shall there be a constitutional convention to amend or revise the constitution
of the state?" be put on the ballot "in the even-numbered year next
succeeding the expiration of a period of 20 years from the date of convening of
the last convention," meaning the 1965 convention.
The next succeeding even-numbered year after 1965 was 1966, and, consequently,
in 1986 voters in Connecticut
were asked if they wanted to call a convention. They overwhelmingly said no.
The constitution further requires that the same question be brought in the
even-numbered year "next succeeding the expiration of a period of 20 years
from the date of submission of such a question to all electors of the
This is where the problem begins.
Kniep's group reads the constitution to mean that the
period of 20 years from the last submission of the question, 1986, is this
That reading is shared by University
of Connecticut School of Law professor
Richard S. Kay, an expert on Connecticut's
The secretary of the state's office, though, disagrees.
According to staff lawyer Ted Bromley, the words "next succeeding"
don't mean the next even-numbered year after a 20-year gap, but the one after
that: 2008, in other words.
"It can be easy to misunderstand if you read it quickly," Bromley
"You could probably parse it that way," Kay says. "But it
clearly wasn't intended to put this question before the voters once every 22
The last vote was on Nov. 19, 1986. The constitution requires the next vote on
the question for the even-numbered year "next succeeding" the 20th
anniversary of the 1986 vote. Kay says that, going strictly on the literal
wording of the section, there was still more than a month of 1986 left, meaning
that the "next succeeding" even-numbered year would be 2006, not
"This is why people have lawyers," Kay says with a laugh.
"It's the kind of interpretation which is faithful to the expressed
literal words," he says of the secretary of the state's claim, "but I
think it's a little formalistic. The question is: Why are they going to this
trouble to read the constitution this way?"
The secretary of the state's reading, though, is final, barring a court
Kniep says her group is unlikely to sue the state over the issue, unless it can
find a lawyer to do the work pro bono.
"We do not have the deep pockets to pursue litigation," she says.
In the meantime, her group is lobbying state legislators to call a
constitutional convention to take up the subject of eminent domain.
The constitution allows the legislature to call a convention at least 10 years
from the date of the last convention as long as two-thirds of the General
Assembly supports it.
House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, R-North Branford, who has been a vocal
proponent of changing the state's eminent domain laws, says it's unlikely the
legislature will call a convention.
"I don't think you'd get the necessary number to approve a
convention," he said. "We're proposing meaningful reform on eminent
domain in the legislature now, and we're already being met with resistance
Ward points out that if a convention were to meet, it would not have to confine
itself to the question of eminent domain. It could do anything - even write an
entirely new constitution - although its decisions would be subject to a
The unpredictability of a convention is one of the things that makes people uncomfortable with the prospect, Kay says.
"Opinion-makers tend to be terrified by the prospect of a constitutional
convention," he says. "They see the whole world being turned upside
The Federation of
Connecticut Taxpayer Organizations, Inc.
February 14, 2006
PROPERTY OWNERS FROM EMINENT DOMAIN
FCTO issued the
following Press Release today. This year
those seeking election to the state legislature will be on the ballot in
November. Connecticut voters will have an opportunity to determine prior to
their vote which legislative candidates support protecting Connecticut property
owners from the abusive powers of eminent domain, and
they can vote accordingly.
In November, 2006, State legislators are mandated to place
before the voters of Connecticut,
the following question:
“Shall there be a Constitutional Convention
to amend or revise the
Constitution of the State?”
If the majority of Connecticut
citizens vote in the affirmative, within one year the General Assembly must
assemble a convention.
Proposed amendments or revisions to our State constitution must
then be submitted to Connecticut
voters at referendum.
As our State does not afford its citizens the right to petition
our state government for reform, this is an important vehicle which Connecticut
voters have to enforce true reform in our State.
As such, the Federation of Connecticut Taxpayer Organizations,
Inc. is encouraging our State legislature to adopt an amendment to our
Constitution to protect the citizens of our state from the abusive powers of
John Adams, our country’s second president said it best when
reflecting upon the passion of our forefathers on property rights issues when
he stated "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is
not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public
justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot
The recent supreme
court decision on Eminent Domain restricted the rights of private
homeowners in the utilization and retention of their property and expanded the
rights of the rich, powerful and politically connected who were given a key to
unlock our front door and invade the sanctity of our homes. The decision further served to
uproot families on homesteads passed down from generation to generation
based not on government need but instead on government greed.
Redevelopment is the
precursor to Eminent domain. It’s big
business. It enriches developers,
lobbyists, attorneys, consultants, and those special interests aligned with
government officials who pass laws which undermine our rights. Elected public officials yield their
responsibilities to quasi public agencies, which are financed by taxpayer
dollars, and which have limited accountability to the public.
Reflecting upon John Adams’ words, our forefathers never
intended for Americans to be forced to relinquish their property so that others
would prosper as suggested by the Supreme Court in their recent findings on the
landmark Kelo v. New London
As such, in reflecting upon the words of John Adams, our
liberties and the sanctity of our property rights must be secured within Connecticut’s
constitution. Our constitution should
enforce a prohibition on any government body from seizing, by eminent domain,
private property for the purpose of transferring ownership from one private
party to another for financial gain or for any other reason.
We encourage all Connecticut citizens who
are concerned that they could be impacted by the recent Supreme Court decision
on Eminent Domain to join with FCTO. We
ask that they contact their State legislators to impress upon them the
necessity to cement within our Constitution the protection of their private
property rights from government seizure.