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Gov. Perry Calls for Eminent Domain Amendment

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Strongly advocates for enhanced protections for Texas private property rights

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.

Thank you, Bill [Peacock, Dir. Ctr for Economic Freedom, TPPF] for that introduction, and thank you to the Texas Public Policy Foundation for helping us bring attention to an issue that goes to the core of what it means to be a Texan.

In the early days, it was land that first drew adventurers to Texas, including the likes of Davy Crockett, who was quoted as saying:

"I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world, the best land and the best prospects for health I ever saw…"

A lot has changed in these parts since Mr. Crockett expressed that sentiment, but Texas still has the best land, and Texans are still justifiably, fiercely committed to land ownership.

Today, more than 90% of the land in Texas is privately owned, and we must fight to protect the rights of the folks who own it.

Unfortunately, the protections previously guaranteed by tradition and law were weakened by a 2005 Supreme Court decision, that allowed the taking of private property for illegitimate reasons, a decision that has thrown our nation's eminent domain process completely out of whack.

This landmark case was named for a woman who might as well be a Texan for the toughness she displayed in the legal process, as she struggled to defend her personal property, against the grasping efforts of her own city.

Susette Kelo, it is an honor to have you here today.

Susette, when the unfortunate decision in your case was handed down, I called on our legislature to pass an important law, one that would prevent similar violations of private property rights in Texas. I am grateful they agreed.

Through Senate Bill 7, we made it clear that Texans will not tolerate taking land for economic development or giving it to a private developer.

In 2007, we worked hard to pass additional protection for property owners, but the bill that reached my desk had been so heavily modified from its original form that it would have done more harm than good.

Here in 2009, we have two very clear challenges before us, challenges I am confident we can handle with a team approach.

First of all, I believe it time to enshrine the provisions of Senate Bill 7 with the passage of a constitutional amendment, one that clearly codifies these essential protections for generations to come.

Next, we need to pass further legislation that protects landowners from other abuses of eminent domain.

Government shouldn't use eminent domain to take someone's land without trying to buy it from them first. It is wrong for any government to make a lowball offer, then respond to an owner's righteous refusal by taking the land.

The government owes land owners a genuine good-faith negotiation, not a land grab. I am pleased that Representative Orr and Senator Duncan are working on legislation that will better protect our landowners.

We should also implement Representative Jackson's constitutional amendment that the voters have already adopted. It allows a landowner to buy back land when it isn't used for the project it was taken for…and buy it for the price the government paid for it, not its value on today's market.

That increase in value belongs to the landowner, not the government, and the landowner shouldn't have to pay extra to get it back.
Without action on these additional protections, private property rights will be eroded, and undermine the very character of our state.

Bottom line: the government has no right to take anyone's land for non-public uses and no amount of arguing will change that fact.

I don't know if y'all have ever heard of a rancher in Beaumont's early days, a gentleman named W.P.H. McFaddin, but he was a character. He is remembered for a lot of things, like owning the land where the Spindletop gusher came in, but in this moment, I am reminded of something he once said.

Ol' WPH was heard to say "Remember Sister, don't give up the land. They are not making land anymore."

His words ring true today, and the fierce independence bound up in our state's character has not been diminished by the passing of time.

Let's continue working to preserve that character by protecting land ownership as an essential Texas right.

Thank you all for being here.

I look forward to strengthening these protections, thereby strengthening the reign of individual liberty in our state.

Thank you, may God bless you and may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.


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