Gov. Rick Perry’s veto this week of an eminent domain bill designed to protect landowners left a lot of Texans scratching their heads, and you can lump us in with those feeling dumbfounded.
Perry — who was among those making political hay when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that cities can seize homes under eminent domain for use by private developers and made the issue an emergency item in a special session that same year — had a chance to back his tough talk and posturing on property rights with action. But when push came to powerful shove against business interests, Perry sided against landowners.
Even though the Supreme Court ruled on the side of developers in the 2005 case, it also said states can craft laws that limit eminent domain. That’s what the Texas House — by a vote of 125-25 — and Senate — in a unanimous vote — did in the bill sent to Perry.
Many feel the Trans-Texas Corridor, a project championed by Perry, will bring about mass evictions of Texans from their homes, farms and ranches. The proposal involves more than 4,000 miles of tollways and railways and cuts through many Texans’ private land.
Farmers and the Texas Farm Bureau were especially upset with the veto. Perry, who touts his farming background, is a former state agriculture commissioner.
“The taking of private property has become far too easy in this state,” Kenneth Dierschke, president of the Bureau, said in a statement. “Obviously, there are many powerful interests that prefer it stay that way."
Perry cited opposition to the bill from fast-growing cities and counties who claimed cost of construction projects would rise. His office’s press release also pointed to how the bill expanded damages a landowner could recover from diminished access to roads and changes in traffic patterns and property visibility.
But certainly those factors were weighed by the Legislature, which overwhelmingly acted on the people’s call for protection from eminent domain.
Perry’s acquiescence to big business is no surprise. He talked tough on border security during his re-election campaign, then dramatically changed his tone after the election when talking to business leaders who rely on immigrant labor. And sadly, eminent domain has no doubt been filed in the same place as true property tax relief for Texas homeowners.
One also has to wonder if Perry’s veto is simply payback to legislators who overturned his executive order on mandatory cervical cancer vaccines and spurned other Perry agenda items. If so, it’s just one more black mark for his less-than-inspiring governorship.
The Facts, Brazos County TX: http://thefacts.com