July 8, 2005

Texas gov wants lawmakers to curb eminent domain

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called
on the legislature to curb the state's power to seize land
through eminent domain, reacting swiftly to a recent Supreme
Court decision that hurt property owners' rights.

The Texas governor called for "limiting the use of eminent
domain to take private property for private parties or economic
development purposes." He also urged the legislature to support
amending the Texas constitution to shore up Texans' rights to
own property.

"The Supreme Court's ruling would allow the government to
condemn your family's home, bulldoze it and build a new
shopping mall or some other kind of economic development
project simply to generate more tax revenue," the Republican
governor said in a statement.

Last month the governor, aiming to reform school funding,
called the legislature back for a special session.

Even before the nation's top court ruled a city can take a
home or business that stands in the way of a development
project, two states enacted laws to restrict this use of
eminent domain, according to Larry Morandi, a director with the
Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.

Utah and Nevada this year approved the measures before the
Supreme Court on June 23 decided that New London, Connecticut,
could take 15 properties for a project that would complement a
nearby research facility by the Pfizer Inc. drug company.

Only about 10 state legislatures are still in session and
could consider ways to protect property owners this year,
Morandi said. But he looks for a burst of new bills in January,
when about 44 legislatures will return and have a chance to
address the Supreme Court's controversial ruling.

The states likely will take one of two approaches: adopting
outright bans on using eminent domain to restore blighted
areas, or setting tougher standards for determining whether an
area is so downtrodden the state should step in and restore it,
Morandi said. The second strategy could also include enacting
stiffer laws requiring a state to negotiate with property
owners before taking their properties, he added.

Utah came close to banning the state from taking land for
economic development, while Nevada adopted somewhat less strict
curbs, Morandi said.