Out of Control Policy Blog

TX Eminent Domain Bill Goes to Governor's Desk

The TX Senate passed Senate Bill 7 yesterday, the latest of state actions designed to limit eminent domain for economic development purposes in the wake of the Kelo vs. New London decision:

    A high-profile measure designed to prohibit governments from seizing private property for commercial development is on its way to Gov. Rick Perry, who will probably sign it.

    . . . .

    Under the bill, governmental entities would be prohibited from condemning private property for economic development projects. Exceptions were carefully written in for public-use projects such as roads, parks, libraries, auditoriums, ports and utility work.

The text of Senate Bill 7 is here, and the history of the bill is here.

This is certainly good news, but lest anyone think the bill is the product of ideological purity, they made sure to carve out some notable exceptions that will ruffle some feathers:

    Also exempt would be the construction of a new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington and an urban renewal project involving an empty downtown Dallas high-rise.

Those exceptions may have been necessary for political expediency, but I'm sure there were several senators that had to hold their noses when they voted for it...

This bill may just be a first step toward a constitutional amendment down the road:

    After Tuesday's final vote, [Lt. Gov David] Dewhurst announced that he plans to appoint an interim Senate committee to study whether further action is needed.

    . . . .

    Kenneth Dierschke, president of the Texas Farm Bureau, a group that lobbied hard for the change in state law, applauded Tuesday's vote but said his group will be back in 2007, pushing lawmakers to let voters put the same prohibition against property seizures into the Texas Constitution.

    [TX Governor Rick] Perry hailed the legislation.

    "This bill provides common-sense protection for every private property owner, and I will continue to work with members of the Legislature to add further protections in the state constitution," he said in a statement.

And, as an aside, there was a bit of a sideshow straight from the Senator Byrd playbook:

    The Senate's 17-6 vote came after Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, spoke against the legislation for two hours in the late morning. It was billed as a mini-filibuster but turned out to be more like an early lunch break for most senators.

    Gallegos gave up about 12:30 p.m., after a speech in which he said "eminent domain" 1,043 times, according to Senate doorkeeper Sheldon Massenburg, who counted.

    Gallegos said he was worried that the measure, Senate Bill 7, would hurt public colleges and universities.

    A provision added to the measure by the House last week prevents universities from using eminent domain to acquire land for lodging facilities, parking or a parking structure to be used in connection with a lodging facility. The provision, though aimed at the University of Texas, which is trying to acquire the land occupied by Player's restaurant, would apply statewide.

More on the filibuster here.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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