Sunday, May 17, 2009

Eminent Domain Reform in Texas

I received the following email this morning regarding eminent domain in Texas. I have not had time to review HJR 14, so I cannot comment on it at this time.


What NOW?
Call to ACTION & Tools to ACT
Important FACTS for you on the Eminent Domain Constitutional Amendment & the Eminent Domain Bill.
The Senate will vote soon on HJR 14 (the Amendment). Make the CONTACT as soon as possible.
1. CALL (Fax or Email) your State Senators and tell them you support HJR 14. (House Joint Resolution 14)
2. Forward this message to your friends and family to encourage them to do the same.
The Contact TOOLS you need are at the very bottom.

FACTS: the Constitutional Amendment (to take action on)
This message is from the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that represented Suzette KELO in her fight to keep her home which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court KELO decision in favor of taking private property from individuals and giving it to others for economic development purposes.

HJR 14 is the constitutional amendment to put better protection against Eminent Domain abuse into the Texas Constitution. It has passed the House unanimously. If the Senate passes HJR 14 with a two-thirds majority, it will appear on the November ballot so that we can vote FOR more protection of private property.

Thousands of Texans, from Houston to San Antonio to El Paso, are currently on the chopping block. They need your help. Now, more than ever, it is critical that you make your voice heard and support HJR 14. This is it. It's been four years since the Kelo decision. The future of property rights in Texas rests in the hands of the Texas Senate. We have to let them know how important stopping eminent domain for private gain is to Texans.

Thank you for continuing to stand on the frontlines of the battle against eminent domain abuse.
Christina Walsh
Institute for Justice

FACTS: the Bill (This underscores why we need BOTH to protect us.)
May 14, 2009
My San Antonio Editorial
by Bill Peacock Bill Peacock works for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit, free-market research institute. "Land-owners need rights in a development-driven world."

Texas needs real property rights protection
Four years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous Kelo decision, which essentially changed private property ownership from a fundamental civil right to a privilege granted by the state at its sole discretion.

Texas has failed to adequately respond to this decision. The first attempt in 2005 missed the mark. In 2007, the Legislature passed strong property rights protections in HB 2006, but the bill was vetoed over concerns about compensation.

Senate Bill 18 is this legislative session's Eminent Domain Reform Bill. However, it was recently stripped in the Senate State Affairs Committee of two key reforms. Today, there is a good chance that after the Legislature adjourns, Texas property owners will still be subject to the same takings that outraged the nation in the Kelo case.

The cities that exercise the power of eminent domain — and have consistently opposed reform — are generally of the same opinion.

One analysis of SB 18 concluded:
SB 18 attempts to strike a reasonable balance between the needs of condemners and the property rights of landowners and appears to make more subtle changes in an effort to promote fairness for property owners.

The provisions of SB 18, in its current form, might make the use of eminent domain more complicated, and nominally more expensive. But the bill is not nearly as bad as virtually every other alternative.

In other words, SB 18 allows cities to carry on their eminent domain business as usual.

One of the major protections stripped from SB 18 was a definition of public use. The justification offered in support of this was that “public use is already defined in case law.” While it is true that the courts have determined over the years what constitutes a public use, this is a cause for action — not inaction — by the Texas Legislature.

Kelo exposed years of jurisprudence that has undermined the Texas Constitution's standard that property may be taken only for a public use. As the Texas Supreme Court has noted, our courts have “adopted a rather liberal view as to what is or is not a public use.”

This liberal view allows property to be taken from one property owner and given to another in order to increase tax revenues for local governments. SB 18 defers to the judicial blessing on these takings and does nothing to stop them.

Fixing Texas' KELO problem involves three things:
1. eliminating the ability of governments to transfer taken property from one private owner to another,
2. eliminating the ability of governments to use blight designations as an end run around the ban on takings for economic development purposes, and
3. ending government land speculation by requiring that property not put to the public use for which it was taken within five years, be offered for sale back to the original owner at the price the government paid for it.

The Texas Legislature needs to pass, and Gov. Rick Perry needs to sign, legislation containing these reforms. To date, SB 18 contains none of them. Only with these reforms will Texans be assured that cities like El Paso, with its downtown redevelopment plan already in place, won't use eminent domain to achieve the dreams of the well-connected at the expense of the rest of us.

TOOLS: LINK to ALL Senators & ALL their Contact INFO.:
TX SENATE Members - 81st Legislative Session
Averitt, Kip (512) 463-0122 & Fax: (512) 475-3729 Kip.Averitt@Senate.State.Tx.US
Carona, John (512) 463-0116 & Fax: (512) 463-3135 John.Carona@Senate.State.Tx.US
Davis, Wendy (512) 463-0110 & Fax: (512) 475-3745 Wendy.Davis@Senate.State.Tx.US
Deuell, Bob (512) 463-0102 & Fax: (512) 463-7202 Bob.Deuell@Senate.State.Tx.US
Duncan, Robert (512) 463-0128 & Fax: (512) 463-2424 Robert.Duncan@Senate.State.Tx.US
Ellis, Rodney (512) 463-0113 & Fax: (512) 463-0006 Rodney.Ellis@Senate.State.Tx.US
Eltife, Kevin (512) 463-0101 & Fax: (512) 475-3751 Kevin.Eltife@Senate.State.Tx.US
Estes, Craig (512) 463-0130 & Fax: (512) 463-8874 Craig.Estes@Senate.State.Tx.US
Fraser, Troy (512) 463-0124 & Fax: (325) 676-8060 Troy.Fraser@Senate.State.Tx.US
Gallegos, Mario, Jr. (512) 463-0106 & Fax: (512) 463-0346 Mario.Gallegos@Senate.State.Tx.US
Harris, Chris (512) 463-0109 & Fax: (512) 463-7003 Chris.Harris@Senate.State.Tx.US
Hegar, Glenn (512) 463-0118 & Fax: (512) 475-3736 Glenn.Hegar@Senate.State.Tx.US
Hinojosa, Juan "Chuy" (512) 463-0120 & Fax: (512) 463-0229 Juan.Hinojosa@Senate.State.Tx.US
Huffman, Joan (512) 463-0117 & Fax: (512) 463-0639 Joan.Huffman@Senate.State.Tx.US
Jackson, Mike (512) 463-0111 & Fax: (512) 475-3727 Mike.Jackson@Senate.State.Tx.US
Lucio, Eddie, Jr. (956) 968-9927 & Fax: (956) 447-0583 Eddie.Lucio@Senate.State.Tx.US
Nelson, Jane (512) 463-0112 & Fax: (512) 463-0923 Jane.Nelson@Senate.State.Tx.US
Nichols, Robert (512) 463-0103 & Fax: (903) 589-0203 Robert.Nichols@Senate.State.Tx.US
Ogden, Steve (512) 463-0105 & Fax: (512) 463-5713 Steve.Ogden@Senate.State.Tx.US
Patrick, Dan (512) 463-0107 & Fax: (512) 463-8810 Dan.Patrick@Senate.State.Tx.US
Seliger, Kel (512) 463-0131 & Fax: (512) 475-3733 Kel.Seliger@Senate.State.Tx.US
Shapiro, Florence (512) 463-0108 & Fax: (512) 463-7579 Florence.Shapiro@Senate.State.Tx.US
Shapleigh, Eliot (512) 463-0129 & Fax: (915) 544-1998 Eliot.Shapleigh@Senate.State.Tx.US
Uresti, Carlos (512) 463-0119 & Fax: (512) 463-1017 Carlos.Uresti@Senate.State.Tx.US
Van de Putte, Leticia (512) 463-0126 & Fax: (512) 463-2114 Leticia.VandePutte@Senate.State.Tx.US
Watson, Kirk (512) 463-0114 & Fax: (512) 463-5949 Kirk.Watson@Senate.State.Tx.US
Wentworth, Jeff (512) 463-0125 & Fax: (512) 463-7794 Jeff.Wentworth@Senate.State.Tx.US
West, Royce (512) 463-0123 & Fax: (512) 463-0299 Royce.West@Senate.State.Tx.US
Whitmire, John (512) 463-0115 & Fax: (713) 864-5287 John.Whitmire@Senate.State.Tx.US
Williams, Tommy (512) 463-0104 & Fax: (512) 463-6373 Tommy.Williams@Senate.State.Tx.US
Zaffirini, Judith (512) 463-0121 & Fax: (956) 722-8586 Judith.Zaffirini@Senate.State.Tx.US

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