"A contrived ceremony and a dubious track record."
San Antonio Express-News
What was it that Gov. Rick Perry signed in a very photogenic event in front of the Alamo last week? The Express-News, working with information from the governor's office, originally reported it was legislation that would allow Texans to vote on a constitutional amendment limiting the circumstances in which state and local government can exercise eminent domain.
That legislation, however, was a joint resolution authored by Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio. Joint resolutions proposing amendments to the Texas Constitution require two-thirds support in each chamber for adoption.
As the Texas Legislature Online notes, “Joint resolutions passed by the Legislature are not submitted to the governor for signing but are filed directly with the secretary of state.” Then voters consider the amendment in the next general election. But the governor has no role in the process.
Perry's office later clarified to the newspaper that the signing was indeed ceremonial, meant to highlight “priority issues.”
Being a visible supporter of eminent-domain reform may be a priority issue for Perry now. He faces a prospective challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the GOP primary in 2010.
But it notably was not a priority for him over the years that he championed the Trans Texas Corridor. In 2007, Perry actually did use his pen to veto an eminent-domain reform bill that addressed the hot-button issue of diminished access to roadways.
One of the specific objectives of House Joint Resolution 14 is to prohibit state and local government from exercising eminent domain for purposes that would benefit private entities — say, for instance, private toll road operators.
Politicians will always try to manage their images. And the Alamo provides an impressive backdrop. But not even the venerable old mission can obscure the difference between a contrived ceremony and a dubious track record.
© 2009 San Antonio Express-News: www.mysanantonio.com
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