TX Property Rights - Release: 5-7-2009
Susette Kelo Calls for Governor Perry
To Live Up to His Promise for Eminent Domain Reform
WEB RELEASE: May 7, 2009
Matt Miller (512) 480-5936
Austin, Tx.Ã¢â‚¬â€Austin, TexasÃ¢â‚¬â€At the beginning of this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s legislative session, Texas Governor Rick Perry stood beside Susette KeloÃ¢â‚¬â€the lead plaintiff in the infamous U.S. Supreme Court eminent domain case that carries her nameÃ¢â‚¬â€ and promised to send to voters a constitutional amendment to end Kelo-style eminent domain takings in Texas. But now, with less than one month left in the session, Susette Kelo would like to know why the governorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promise is not being kept.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When are politicians going to learn that real eminent domain reform isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just wildly popular with voters, but it is the right thing to do?Ã¢â‚¬Â asked Kelo. Ã¢â‚¬Å“People should not face the loss of their homes or small businesses just so some other private party who has more political influence can try to make more money off that land, or promise to create more jobs. If homeownership means anything in Texas or elsewhere, it means youÃ¢â‚¬â€and not the governmentÃ¢â‚¬â€get to decide if and when you sell your home.Ã¢â‚¬Â
For the third session in a row, Texas is in danger of failing to address the problem of eminent domain for private gain. Despite being lauded by the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office as legislation that will Ã¢â‚¬Å“shield landowners from abuses of eminent domain for generations to come,Ã¢â‚¬Â Senate Bill 18 was actually gutted by the Texas Senate prior to passage. Unless that bill is re-strengthened in the House, it will represent yet another failure of political will among elected officials.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have repeatedly shown legislators that homes and small businesses in Houston, San Antonio and El Paso are in danger of being wiped out by agreements between developers and local officials, but the Legislature has yet to put a stop to it,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Matt Miller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Texas Chapter (IJ-TX), which, along with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has helped lead the way for genuine eminent domain reform in the state.
Despite politiciansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ claims that Senate Bill 18 will protect property owners, it would still allow takings for private parties. A more strict definition of Ã¢â‚¬Å“public useÃ¢â‚¬Â was stripped from the bill in a Senate committee, thereby clearing the way for the continued taking of private land for the benefit of private developers.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Property owners across Texas need real reform and protection, but those bills are now being stalled by legislative leaders,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Wesley Hottot, an IJ-TX staff attorney. Ã¢â‚¬Å“With SB 18 gutted, Texas property owners must pin their hopes on two bills in the House. The first is a strong constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 14, by Frank Corte (R-San Antonio), which offers Texans the strongest protection for their homes and businesses. The second is House Bill 417, by Bill Callegari (R-Katy), a bill that would address the problem of cities using bogus Ã¢â‚¬ËœblightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ designations to justify eminent domain for private development.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Miller said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Combined with HB 417, HJR 14 would give Texans some of the strongest property rights in the nation. Dennis Bonnen got those bills out of his House committee, but they have yet to be scheduled for a full vote in the House or Senate. We are very close to enacting real reform for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a city in Connecticut could take Susette KeloÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s home. It would be a shame if the Legislature and Governor Perry once again failed to deliver.Ã¢â‚¬Â