Perry grandstands, signs watered-down eminent domain bill
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
By Dan Genz Tribune-Herald staff writer
Waco Tribune Herald
Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed a new property rights law Monday in Waco, saying Texas will protect homeowners from losing land to private economic development projects.
The law, which the Legislature passed in August in response to a controversial June U.S. Supreme Court decision, restricts a governmental body's power of eminent domain to seize private property.
“We believe government should not encroach upon the private property rights unless there is an eminent public need,” Perry said. “Eminent domain for public use is a necessary power. Eminent domain for private use is a great threat.”
Saying he and the Legislature attempted “to close a door the Supreme Court jarred open,” Perry received a standing ovation from more than 60 people at the Waco Association of Realtors office, which supported the legislation.
“There is a new law in place that ensures a developer's dream for a new strip mall or a new skyscraper does not take precedence over your dream of owning your own home,” Perry said.
The majority of the Supreme Court justices ruled in the case that prompted the law, Kelo vs. the city of New London, Conn., that a city was justified in seizing property from homeowners and transferring the land to developers if it would produce higher tax revenues for the government.
The Texas Association of Realtors, who endorsed Perry's 2006 campaign last month, made the bill one of its top priorities this year, and the legislation passed during the second special session Perry had called to address the state's ongoing school finance problems.
Pat Nix, president of the Waco Association of Realtors, introduced Perry as a “great man” and during an interview said the law was the biggest issue for real estate agents this summer.
“If your property is going to be taken by government, you have to be fairly compensated,” Nix said.
The meeting had the appearance of a campaign rally and an official government function, with a few audience members holding Realtors for Perry signs during the speech and with Perry standing behind an podium bearing the governor's seal at a post-speech news conference.
Perry said he scheduled the ceremonial function in Waco, in part, because, “I haven't been to Waco in a while.”
Perry is running for re-election in 2006 against fellow Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.
Strayhorn's office, when reached for comment, provided an Aug. 31 news release in which she called the bill “filled with loopholes” and accused Perry of grandstanding.
Upbeat and intent on visiting with almost every guest after his speech, Perry greeted one supporter's “How are you doing?” with “Best you ever seen” and a hearty handshake. He posed for at least 20 photos, mingled with the two lawmakers on hand and signed a business card for a fan.
After signing the bill, Perry handed his pen to state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, a freshman lawmaker who said he was involved in crafting the law behind the scenes this summer.
“The decision came out on a Wednesday, and we were on the phone on the Thursday,” Anderson said. He had hoped for a constitutional amendment, which he said would offer property owners stronger protection.
Perry actually signed the law Sept. 1, but the state's response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced him to delay plans for the ceremonial speech and visit in Waco.
© 2005 The Waco Tribune Herald