As the end of the session approached, there were two pieces of eminent domain legislation that had a chance of getting through—SB 18 and HJR 14.
SB 18 WITH SEVERAL EMINENT DOMAIN PROTECTIONS DIED
SB 18 was the bill desired by organizations like the Texas Farm Bureau. It called for more transparency in the condemnation process, compensation for diminished access, and the right for the owner to buy back property at its selling price if it was not used for the stated purpose within a certain time period.
SB 18 passed the Senate, passed out of committee to the full House, and was caught in the last-minute logjam caused by the delaying tactics on the House floor to avoid bringing up the voter ID bill.
HJR 14 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PROHIBIT PRIVATE-TO-PRIVATE PROPERTY TAKINGS WILL BE ON THE BALLOT
Even though SB 18 died, HJR 14 calling for a constitutional amendment passed the House and the Senate and will appear on the November ballot. If approved by voters, it would prevent in Texas the situation that happened in the Kelo case, where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the process of taking property from one private owner and giving it to another private owner. HJR limits the taking of private property to a public taking.
GROUPS CALL FOR EMINENT DOMAIN TO BE IN SPECIAL SESSION
Some, including Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, and the Texas Farm Bureau, are calling for stronger eminent domain protections to be addressed in a special session. Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke said, “We have to guard against the possibility that some may declare the job done on eminent domain reform. If there is a special session, we hope Governor Perry will add it to the call. If there is not, this has to be a top priority for the next regular session.”
PERRY ALAMO SIGNING A SHAM
There have been several news accounts of Gov. 39% signing the authorization in front of the Alamo for HJR 14 to be on the ballot this November. The only account I saw that explains that the whole ceremony was a sham is from Ken Herman in the Statesman.
“Who amongst us does not enjoy political theater? . . . The only thing better than political theater is the subcategory of political theater/fiction. This would be when a politician performs in a little show that is fully make-believe. . . .
“A real trouper, Gov. Rick Perry showed up at the Alamo, right arm in sling from a recent bike wreck, and used his left hand to sign House Joint Resolution 14, a proposed constitutional amendment concerning eminent domain. . . .
“Beautiful. Perfect. Inspiring. And as phony as they come.
“Here's why: Texas governors have nothing to do with proposed constitutional amendments. When a proposed amendment gets the necessary two-thirds vote in each chamber — as HJR 14 did this year — it goes to the secretary of state, who puts it on the statewide ballot. Unlike proposed laws, proposed constitutional amendments are not routed through the governor's office.
“No vetoes allowed. No signature required. No signing ceremony needed. . . . It's all about re-establishing Perry as a private property-rights kind of guy, a credential he covets as he heads toward a 2010 renomination battle against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. . . .
“Exactly two years ago Monday, Perry invited questions about his dedication to private property rights by vetoing a bill dealing with the concept of ‘diminished access.’ . . . the veto did not sit well with some, including the Texas Farm Bureau, holder of a potentially pivotal endorsement in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.
“The 2007 veto came on the heels of Perry's ill-fated Trans-Texas Corridor highway project, one that also attracted the ire of folks who fear government taking of private property.
“Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, stood with Perry on Monday. After the ‘signing’ ceremony, the 21-year legislative veteran could not immediately recall previously attending a ceremony where a governor signed something a governor has no business signing.”
Since there is no provision for such a signing, I wonder what Perry actually signed. Did his office make up an official-looking document that would be a fake with no significance? Then what happened to the signed fake document? Maybe it will become a collector’s item.