Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Texas Legislature acts to counter the Kelo decision

From the Houston Chronicle online:

AUSTIN - Private property owners would be protected from state and local governments seizing their land for economic development purposes under a bill overwhelmingly approved by the Texas House Sunday night.

The bill, drafted in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing eminent domain seizures for economic development projects, gained final passage 136-0.


The House version of the eminent domain bill was amended to stop the city of Freeport from seizing waterfront land from a family-owned shrimping company to make way for a private marina project.

The Senate has passed similar legislation, but differences must be worked out in a conference committee before midnight Wednesday when the special session ends.

The House bill also requires local approval from county commissioners courts for state use of eminent domain to seize land for gas stations, convenience stores, hotels and other commercial enterprises in the median of the Trans-Texas Corridor, Gov. Rick Perry's ambitious toll road project.

The Texas House actually went further, specifying that the state must pay replacement cost in certain circumstances, and specifying that eminent domain would be limited to traditionally accepted “public use” purposes or the alleviation of blight. However, they appear to have pre-empted the Lakewood Ohio definition of “blight” as “not generating enough taxes” by specifying that there must be some element of harm to the public.

The House approved several other amendments,including one by Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, requiring governments to pay replacement value to property owners in certain land seizures.

Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, protested that the change would affect nearly every eminent domain seizure in Texas and undo 50 years of eminent domain law.

Corte, however, argued property owners have little say when governments seize their land, so it is only fair they get reimbursed for replacing it.

"Did those people ask to have their land taken away? No, they did not," he said.

The bill, which was passed in the Senate 25-4 before the House amended it, makes clear that eminent domain can be used for traditional purposes such as railroads, public roads, utility services, water and wastewater projects and drainage projects. It would allow economic development seizures if the land is blighted and harmful to the public.

Hopefully, all other states will follow suit and enact VERY restrictive eminent domain laws. Kelo is an horrendous abomination, and legislative action is the only remedy to the Supreme Court's decision that effectively allows tax-crazed local governments to confiscate private property by forced sale for the purpose of awarding it to other private owners who will pay more taxes.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs notes a movement in Tennessee to enact legislation in response to Kelo.

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