"Under Texas law, constitutional amendments do not cross the governor's desk...so his show of support indicated a political stance."
By CHRISTY HOPPE
The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry endorsed a constitutional amendment to protect homeowners from having their land taken in certain eminent domain proceedings – a move to mend relations with property-rights conservatives.
Two years ago, Perry vetoed a bill that would have given landowners more consideration in their property's value and allowed them to fight for fairer compensation. He rejected the bill, saying it would create a bevy of lawsuits and cost public entities millions more to acquire needed property.
Others were angered over his full-throated support of the now-defunct Trans-Texas Corridor, which initially would have given road developers the ability to take massive swaths of land not just for highways but also for retail and hotel development along the right-of-way.
Perry said he grew up on a ranch and has always been sympathetic to landowner rights, but that he made the correct decision in vetoing the bill two years ago. He said he wants to work with lawmakers this year to achieve legislation that he can support.
"It is wrong for any government to make a lowball offer, then respond to an owner's righteous refusal by taking the land. The government owes landowners a genuine good-faith negotiation, not a land grab," he said.
He spoke alongside Susette Kelo, whose unsuccessful suit against a New London, Conn., effort to take her home for private economic development galvanized 40 states to pass legislation protecting landowners.
Under Texas law, constitutional amendments do not cross the governor's desk, and so his show of support Thursday indicated a political stance as he prepares for a potential primary fight with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has said property rights are important.
The constitutional amendment and other legislation will attempt to narrow the definition of "public use" for private land and to keep protections from being chiseled away by exceptions attempted in future laws, said the sponsor, Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.
Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson, also said he was filing bills that would give landowners greater consideration when their land is sought for gas pipelines, which are crisscrossing northern Tarrant County.
He said he particularly wants to see greater restrictions on the disposal of materials connected with gas-well drilling and to make sure property owners are protected and fairly compensated for such activities.
© 2009 The Dallas Morning News: www.dallasnews.com
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