Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Eminent Domain Reform Demands A Special Session

I recently wrote the commentary below on the need for meaningful eminent domain reform. If you agree with the commentary, please forward the following link to others who share our commitment to duty.

The editorial was published in the Austin American-Statesman on June 4, 2009.

Eminent Domain Reform Demands A Special Session

Of all the important issues facing our great state, eminent domain reform demands immediate legislative action.

The passage of HJR 14, a constitutional amendment that will be sent to the voters this November, provides much needed protection to ensure that in the unfortunate instance that government must exercise condemnation powers, that it is for a clear public use and purpose.

Painfully absent from our laws in Texas – the land of Houston, Bowie and Crockett – are fundamental protections to the owners of private property. A series of loopholes in the law and court decisions have eroded our basic structure of what distinguishes us from other countries. It was no accident our founding fathers placed the defense of property right in line with life and liberty, where it belongs.

Now, we the people must continue this legacy for the next generation of Texans.

The recently concluded legislative session yielded a vehicle to right some terrible wrongs that cast a shadow over an otherwise shining Lone Star. Delay tactics by a few house members prevented final passage of SB 18, a bill unanimously passed by the senate. The bill would have established stricter penalties for not negotiating in good faith; demanded adequate compensation for loss of access; and clarified eminent domain must only be exercised for public use.

Fortunately, the writers of our Texas Constitution allowed for the Governor to call a special session of the legislature to address unfinished and urgent business of the people of Texas. We know there are several matters that were casualties of the regular session that need to be tackled – eminent domain reform is without a question or doubt one of these essential topics.

Surely the descendants of those who defended the Alamo and the heirs of those who tamed a vast and wild land will not rest until Texas once again rightly provides for the protection of life, liberty and property. Doing so is more than a reason to call for special session; it is a call to duty.

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