Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mea Maxima Culpa: San Antonio Express-News falls for Gov. Perry's eminent domain flim-flam show at the Alamo


Setting It Straight: 'Eminent domain fight'

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Bob Richter
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2009

Gov. Rick Perry signed something in front of the Alamo Monday, but, it turns out, it wasn’t a bill to allow Texas voters to decide a constitutional amendment restricting eminent domain because the governor doesn’t figure in that process and doesn’t sign anything approving it.

The Express-News’ coverage resulted in an inaccurate story Tuesday that editors learned of late Tuesday.

The event, on a sunny Monday morning, with the Shrine of Texas Liberty in the background, did, however, garner news attention. The Express-News report was printed on the front of the Business section beneath a headline, “Eminent domain fight,” and a sub-headline: “Perry signs bill allowing vote on constitutional amendment limiting its use.”

Staff writer Jennifer Hiller described the event as Perry signing a bill “that would send the property rights decision to voters ...”

A June 12 media advisory from Perry’s office promised he “will sign legislation to allow Texans to vote on a constitutional amendment to increase property owners’ rights.” And a story on the governor’s website Monday was headlined: “Gov. Perry signs legislation protecting Texas property owners.”

Unfortunately, with that kind of help from the governor’s office, the Express-News got the story wrong. While it requires two-thirds approval by both houses of the Legislature, a constitutional amendment does not require the governor’s approval to be put on the ballot.

A Perry spokeswoman, Allison Castle, told the Express-News via e-mail: “It was a ceremonial signing as the governor has done numerous times before to highlight priority issues,” citing events in 2007, 2005, 2003 and 2001.

However, the ceremony was unnecessary to the amendment process or to whether it goes to voters, and for erroneously explaining that process, the Express-News apologizes to its readers.

Bob Richter is the Express-News public editor. Contact him at brichter@express-news.net or (210) 250-3264.

© 2009 San Antonio Express-News: www.mysanantonio.com

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