By Mike Barnett
Keep your eyes on Proposition 11. That’s the Texas Farm Bureau backed constitutional amendment which will stop the government from taking private property to give to another entity for the primary purpose of economic development or to enhance tax revenue.
Early voting started Monday and will continue through Oct. 30. The general election is Nov. 3. The last of the constitutional amendments on the ballot, Proposition 11 is an important step toward eminent domain reform and protection of private property rights in the Lone Star State. I urge you to check yes on the ballot.
What a long, strange journey for property rights Texans have traveled over the past few years. Sparked by a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave cities the right to use eminent domain for private development, the Texas Legislature ramped up efforts to reform Texas archaic laws.
In the 80th legislative session, the House passed a reform bill overwhelmingly and the Senate unanimously that would have leveled the playing field between private property owners and condemners. Gov. Perry vetoed it.
Disappointment was huge in rural Texas. The Trans-Texas Corridor had captured headlines across the state and private property owners were up in arms as the proposed route was going to cut right through the heart of some of the richest farmland in the state.
So we enter the 81st legislative session. Bills are introduced in both House and Senate. Senate Bill 18 by Craig Estes wins unanimous support in the Texas Senate. It contains the reforms Texas Farm Bureau and a host of other organizations concerned with private property rights said were needed; reforms which would have added protections such as compensation to landowners for lost access to their property, offers that represent fair market value and the right to repurchase land not used for condemning purposes.
What was not anticipated was the furor over another issue in the House at the end of the session that effectively killed the legislation. HJR 14, the basis of Proposition 11, was hurriedly passed instead.
Governor Perry signed HJR 14 into law. Eminent domain reform did not make it into the special session. And that’s where we are today.
Both Republican candidates for governor have urged voters to vote for the private property rights protection.
Gov. Perry said he’ll be checking the box for Proposition 11 “which sustains our state’s forward momentum in protecting private property rights and builds a firewall between the misguided principles of the Supreme Court’s Kelo ruling and our state’s private property owners.”
His opponent in the Republican primary, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, is also urging voters to say aye to Proposition 11.
“I think all of us need to support Proposition 11. But we also need to be very clear that this is a step, not the end of the road,” Hutchison told the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinal. “We will protect private property rights in Texas with legislation after we have passed this constitutional amendment.”
Texas Farm Bureau agrees. Proposition 11 is important. Farm Bureau members are working hard to ensure its passage. But they also realize this constitutional amendment is only the beginning.
My wish is we wake up Nov. 4 with the protection in the Texas Constitution which Proposition 11 affords. That will send a clear signal to our state lawmakers that Texans are truly interested in eminent domain reform.
Passage of Proposition 11 will be the start of another journey for protection of private property rights and true eminent domain reform. Let’s hope this one will not be as long and strange as the last one.
Vote for private property rights. Vote Yes for Proposition 11.