The Senate Budget Committee on Monday recommended final passage of legislation designed to curtail local governments’ use of eminent domain for private redevelopment and to provide an alternative to condemnation proceedings.

The bill, A-3615, would allow municipalities to negotiate directly with property owners without having to declare an area blighted — the constitutional standard for redevelopment condemnations. 

It would also narrow the definition of blight in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(e), in accordance with a Supreme Court decision. In Gallenthin Realty Developments v. Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007), the court held the statutory standard — that the property be in a "stagnant or not fully productive condition" — unconstitutional as applied. Under the proposed amendment, the property must be in an "unproductive condition."

The legislation also is a scaled-down version of a previous bill, also sponsored by Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, that but garnered only 13 of the 21 yeas needed in a January 2011 vote. The new version removed  a requirement that the condemning agency provide the property owner with a copy of the appraisal, a provision allowing homeowners to provide information to and challenge appraisers and a provision giving owners a 45-day period to review an offer, extendable up to 70 days, with rights to request more information, meet with the condemning agency and obtain their own appraisal.

There was no debate on the bill, which passed in a 12-0 vote. It now goes to the full Senate. The sponsors are Rice and Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May.

The Assembly passed the bill without opposition in May. The Assembly sponsors are Assemblymen Albert Coutinho, D-Essex, and Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union. 

The Senate committee also recommended final passage of a bill that would speed up the process by which a defendant accused of committing sex crimes would be forced to give a blood sample to determine if he or she has HIV or AIDS.

At present, a victim of aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault may request that a judge order the defendant to submit to testing. The testing is to be done as soon as practicable following the issuance of the order.

The bill, S-2557, would require that if the victim makes the request for testing prior to or at the time of indictment, the court order will specify that the testing is to take place within 48 hours.

The legislation, sponsored by Senators Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, and Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, was passed with no opposition.

An identical bill, A-3760, passed the Assembly in a 76-0 vote in February. It was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, and by Assemblymen Herb Conoway Jr., D-Burlington, and Timothy Eustace, D-Bergen.