Saturday, July 02, 2005

Senator Wentworth: “I believe that this is an amendment that Texans will strongly support.”

Legislators vow to fight for property rights

By David Rupkalvis
The Herald-Zeitung
Copyright 2005

AUSTIN — State Rep. Carter Casteel and Sen. Jeff Wentworth responded quickly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled governments can use eminent domain for economic development purposes.

Casteel, R-New Braunfels, signed on as a co-author to a constitutional amendment written by Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, that would limit eminent domain in the state.

At the same time, Wentworth, R-San Antonio, was one of three authors of legislation filed in the Senate that would prohibit governments from taking property to be used for economic development.

Casteel said her response was in part due to requests from her constituents and in part due to personal experience.

Several years ago, Casteel experienced eminent domain firsthand when riverfront property her family owned was taken for the Canyon Lake Dam.

“It’s painful,” Casteel said.

Her experience and repeated calls from her constituents led Casteel to act.

“People are very concerned about property rights,” she said. “I have joined with Frank Cortes to do a constitutional amendment. If we get this done this year, we can have it on the ballot in November.”

Wentworth joined Sens. Bob Deuell and Jane Nelson to author an amendment in the Senate.

Wentworth said he supports economic development efforts but never at the expense of private property rights.

“I do not believe that Texans’ property rights should be sacrificed on the altar of economic development,” he said.

Casteel said before any formal action can be taken, the governor must include the effort into the special session already under way. If the governor does not include the amendment, or call another special session, the effort would not be able to proceed until the new regular session in 2007.

“While many of us in the Legislature understand the importance of this issue, it is not up to the legislative body to determine what topics are included in this, or any, special session,” Casteel said. “Only the governor can decide what will be included. I encourage you to contact Gov. Perry and ask him to include this important issue in this special session.”

Wentworth also said he would support taking up the amendment now, adding he was confident it would pass the Legislature and a vote by Texas residents.

“I believe that this is an amendment that Texans will strongly support,” Wentworth said. “As a state senator and a fourth-generation Texan, I am very aware that Texans believe strongly in their right to own and use their private property without fear of condemnation of their property solely for the purpose of private economic development.”

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