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Gov. Perry Signs Legislation Protecting Texas Property Owners

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HJR 14 allows Texans to vote on constitutional amendment

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today joined lawmakers in highlighting the importance of House Joint Resolution (HJR) 14 that allows Texans to vote on a constitutional amendment to strengthen land owners’ rights. The amendment, which will be voted on in November 2009, would achieve unprecedented protection of private property by placing protections against abuse of eminent domain directly into the Texas Constitution.

“Land ownership is an essential part of Texas’ culture, and we owe it to our citizens to protect their rights as landowners and members of the community from government entities that overstep their bounds and abuse eminent domain,” Gov. Perry said. “The Legislature has moved us in the right direction with the passing of HJR 14, which will give Texans the right to vote in November to protect their homes and property from being taken by the government and given to someone else.”

The passage of a constitutional amendment will enhance the private property protections established in Senate Bill (SB) 7, which prohibits government acquisition of land for non-public purposes, such as commercial economic development or private use. The bill was passed during a special session of the 79th Legislature in 2005, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London ruled that government entities could use eminent domain authority for economic development projects rather than traditional public uses.

“Eminent domain is used on a regular basis without outcry when necessary for public use, but the public is rightfully outraged when that power is misused,” Rep. Frank Corte Jr. said in a voice recorded statement. “HJR 14 will finally give the citizens of Texas the opportunity to pledge their support for protecting private property at the ballot box.”

Further, HJR 14 requires a two-thirds vote of all members in both houses of the Legislature for any future grants of eminent domain authority. The bill also forbids the government from declaring an entire neighborhood as blighted without first determining that each property is blighted.

“Texas voters are the most appropriate authority on the government's use of eminent domain,” Sen. Robert Duncan said. “This proposition gives them the final word on that authority.”

The governor was joined by Sen. Duncan for the signing. Rep. Corte, who is the author of the resolution, is currently in Japan serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and was represented by his wife, Valerie.

For more information about the 81st Legislative Session, please visit www.governor.state.tx.us or http://www.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx.

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