Tuesday, July 5

TEXANS LIKELY TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER ON EMINENT DOMAIN LIMITS

The Texas Legislature -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- is not in the least divided on the issue of wanting to reverse through state constituional amendments and legislation what the United States Supreme Court ruled recently in "Kelo v. City of New London", in expanding the rights of cities and minuicipalities in condemning private property for private economic development. The Supreme Court ruled in that 5-4 decision that a city can not just take your home for the building of a road, a park, a public library -- i.e., something for "public use" -- but it can also do so for the benefit of a private developer (e.g., for a plant, an office complex, a hotel, a shopping mall), provided there's an economic benefit to the city, such as increased tax revenues or increased employment (albeit those benefits do not have to be realized).

The "Houston Chronicle" (registration required) in an article in today's edition points to the fact that SCOTUS emphasized that "nothing in its ruling prevents states from placing new restrictions on the power of governmental bodies to take private property for economic development purposes." And that's just what the state of Texas intends to do.

As Polly Ross Huges writes:

Both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in Austin said last week that they support the proposals to allow Texans to vote on the issue this November, saying the high court's ruling undermines the fundamental right to own private property.

And in Washington, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced legislation last week prohibiting the use of eminent domain authority for economic development purposes if federal funds are used.

"The protection of homes, small business and other private property rights against government seizure and other unreasonable government interference is a fundamental principle and core commitment of our nation's founding fathers," Cornyn said on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Not in recent memory has a Supreme Court decision generated the huge backlash from Americans that this has and appropriately so. And this writer is among the many who view "Kelo v. City of New London" as a SCOTUS' overstep. As I wrote in this post:

This is a decision that should unite an otherwise divided, red state/blue state, country, as it confers on the government an overweening, virtually unlimited right under a re-written Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- one that the Founding Father's never envisioned -- to seize your home and property on the pretext that any city and its public officials know best what is best for the common good of the community. And that good is no longer necessarily a public highway, or a bridge, or tunnel, or a school, but now perhaps a privately-held shopping center or mall or industrial complex or office center.

Eminent domain has, in the process, become a virtually unchecked, unrestrained right of the government to seize private property and disrespect the private citizen.

If the notion of an out-of-control Federal judiciary has escaped the grasp of many citizens up until now, particularly Liberal Democrats, those folks ought to begin re-thinking their positions with this egregious decision by the black robes.