Gov. Perry Steps Up for Private Property Owners in Texas
Signs HJR 14, Calling for Constitutional Amendment on Eminent Domain
*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Good morning and thank you for being here today. It is a unique privilege to be here at the Alamo, where nearly 200 Texans gave their lives in the defense of an ideal.
Records indicate that a great number of those who fought and died here did so with the expected reward of a piece of land to call their own. In a letter to his wife in Tennessee, one fighter, Micajah Autry, wrote before the attack:
"Be of good cheer Martha I will provide you a sweet home. I shall be entitled to 640 acres of land for my services in the army and 444 acres upon condition of settling my family here."
Land ownership is an essential part of Texas culture, part of an abiding human desire that would even motivate a young man to risk his life, to provide a home for his family.
That commitment to land ownership is still strong in Texas today. In fact, more than 90% of the land in Texas is privately owned, and we owe it to our citizens to protect their rights, as landowners and members of the community.
As in every state, a drama has played out in Texas over the years, as the needs of a growing population have run up against individual property rights. If it weren't for the proper exercise of eminent domain, there would likely be no highways, water treatment plants or other projects necessary for the public good.
However, abuses of eminent domain have occurred across the U.S., with government entities overstepping their bounds; abuses that unfortunately gained the protection of law in the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision.
When that decision was handed down in 2005, the legislature responded to my request by passing Senate Bill 7, which made it clear that Texans will not tolerate taking land for economic development or giving it to a private developer.
Here in 2009, I believe our legislators have continued moving us in the right direction with the passage of HJR 14. Its key provisions include language to close off one angle a government entity might pursue to improperly take land, by requiring the government to continue having "ownership, use, and enjoyment" of the property, so they can't just turn and hand it to a private party.
It also makes it clear that "public use" does not include economic development for the purpose of enhancing tax revenues, a core tenet of the Kelo decision.
This resolution also raises the bar on creating future eminent domain authorities, so that Texas does not grow careless in granting this incredibly important power.
It also keeps the government from punishing property owners whose neighbors' neglect of their own property make a neighborhood subject to condemnation and taking.
So, in short, this bill represents good forward motion on the issue of eminent domain, the latest in an ongoing process that I believe will ultimately result in genuine Texas-style protections for private property rights.
I encourage Texans to go to the polls this fall and show their support for private property rights by voting to enshrine them in our state's constitution.