Rick Perry: HB 2006 'had nothing to do with Kelo.'
Veto saves taxpayers money
June 29, 2007
Rick Perry, GOVERNOR OF TEXAS
Austin American Statesman
As someone born and raised on a cotton farm, protecting private property rights is part of my political DNA. That's why two years ago I joined a large majority of legislators in responding to the onerous Kelo v. City of New London decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that stated the Constitution does not prevent government from taking private property and giving it to another private party for economic development.
In 2005, we passed a law that guaranteed Texans' land would never be taken and given to the highest bidder for private economic development purposes. In other words, the family farm should not be seized simply because private developers have a vision for bigger profits from a mall or their private venture.
Critics of my recent veto of House Bill 2006, which addressed eminent domain, have wrongly stated that I set back efforts to address the Kelo decision. The bill had nothing to do with Kelo. HB 2006 was not about protecting private property from being taken by eminent domain; it was about how much taxpayers must pay when private land is going to be taken.
I strongly supported HB 2006 right up until the final days of the legislative session before last-minute amendments were added that would have cost taxpayers more than $1 billion annually and provided condemnation lawyers a new cottage industry to get rich based on frivolous claims.
HB 2006 would have allowed condemnation lawyers to sue cities, counties and the state for any reason and any amount whenever the state acquired land through eminent domain.
No government entity likes to use the power of eminent domain. But it is a necessary power if we are to build the roads, schools and health care facilities needed to keep up with our population growth. A reality often forgotten, or brushed to the side, is that every new road, school office building, park, hospital and home built in Texas has been or will be built on private property. That property, whether acquired through a private business deal or through authority vested in the government to impose eminent domain rights, is appropriately purchased — and paid for — at or above market price. The law already protects Texans when it comes to the price offered for purchase.
HB 2006 would have gone beyond fair market value by creating a new category of subjective damages that would have been rife for exploitation by condemnation lawyers. Construction dust could trigger a lawsuit by business owners claiming it impedes access to their businesses.The addition of a new stoplight to make a road safer could trigger a lawsuit. The placement of a new school could be a reason to sue. And taxpayers would be left to pick up the check.
Leaders of virtually every major high-growth city and county in the state asked me to veto this bill. They recognized, as I did, that this bill would have hindered a local community's ability to manage population growth.
The most common misunderstanding I hear about HB 2006 is that it somehow would have protected property owners from having their land taken. HB 2006 was strictly about how much the taxpayers would pay the landowner, not about whether the land could be taken. The bill would not have prevented even a single case involving eminent domain. It dealt only with a paycheck.
I have also heard the misconception that HB 2006 would protect rural landowners. In reality, the bill would have affected predominantly high-growth urban properties. Rural landowners simply aren't faced with the traffic issues that this bill targeted. If this bill had been allowed to pass, rural Texans would have been forced to pay more taxes to fund land purchases in urban areas because of the increases in litigation.
While I am firmly committed to ensuring increased fairness for Texas landowners, late amendments added to an otherwise good bill were done to benefit condemnation lawyers and place a disproportionate burden on Texas taxpayers.
I urge the Legislature to continue to work on striking a balance that allows Texas landowners to be treated with fairness and respect for their property rights while simultaneously asking their neighbors to pay a reasonable amount for their land.
Texas can find a middle ground, and it shouldn't cost billions of dollars to do so.
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