Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bonilla: “If you are a community that does this, you will lose all federal funding.”

Eminent domain ruling draws fire

By Gerard MacCrossan
Kerrville Daily Times
Copyright 2005

Opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June eminent domain ruling is drawing support from both sides of the House of Representatives. Congressman Henry Bonilla’s comments to the Kerrville Noon Rotary Club on Wednesday brought applause for his stance and for proposed legislation that would penalize any governmental entity that employed eminent domain rights to take property for private gain.

“I disagreed with the (Supreme Court’s) ruling,” Bonilla said, adding his response was to file HR 3405 — The Strengthening the Ownership of Private Property Act.

The bill proposes ending federal economic assistance on all economic development projects should any state or local government entity take property from one private party to give to another.

“If you are a community that does this, you will lose all federal funding,” Bonilla said. “The bipartisan support across the board (for this bill) has been found.

“Maxine Waters from California, who is known as a fire-breathing liberal, has signed on,” he said.

Another liberal Congressman, former Democratic presidential challenger Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, is among 19 House members co-sponsoring the bill. Four other Texas congressmen, including Lamar Smith, have signed on, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn has filed similar legislation, Bonilla said.

The bipartisan support, he said, comes from the fear shared by inner city-dwellers that their homes could be taken away as easily as those of the citizens of New London, Conn., under the Supreme Court ruling.

“No city is going to want to lose their federal funds,” Bonilla said, adding his bill is a “creative way” of combating the ruling.

The Congressman’s Kerrville stop is one in a series of visits he is making to communities throughout his huge District 23. He said different issues are important to different areas, ranging from agriculture in Hondo, where he was Wednesday morning, to veterans affairs in Kerrville, to immigration and customs issues along the border. stretching from Webb County to El Paso County.

He said border issues are prominent for him, including changing the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of arresting the releasing illegal immigrants referred to as OTMs — Other Than Mexicans. He said he raised the issue many times with former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge because more than 15,000 OTM’s were released in Texas last year, and 85 percent didn’t show up to their appointed court dates.

He said he believes the policy will change, but it will take time to make it happen.

On terrorism, Bonilla said it is unfortunate that the U.S. can never totally be safe. The circumstances that would create the desirable ability for all U.S. troops to come home don’t exist. If things progress positively in the coming year, he said he hopes to see a draw down of troops in Iraq.

“Then we have Iran,” he said, adding he hopes that country doesn’t push the nuclear issue. “That part of the world is infested with a cancer that is affecting the whole world.”

One Rotarian asked Bonilla if the federal government would restrict the amount drug companies could spend on advertising, and on that issue, the Congressman said he couldn’t give an answer to please.

“I don’t see this as a federal issue,” he said. “I believe our drug companies are the best in the world, allowing Americans to live longer, healthier lives. ... People who can’t afford it need help with their prescription drugs ... but I don’t think the federal government needs to regulate advertising.”

Gerard MacCrossan may be reached at

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