Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vote Yes on Prop 11 This November

The Texas Constitutional Amendment election is Tuesday, November 3. In the upcoming weeks, I'll examine all of the proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments, but I want to give special attention to Prop 11, because it is worth campaigning for. Here's the text:

“The constitutional amendment to prohibit the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for public use unless the action is for the ownership, use, and enjoyment of the property by the State, a political subdivision of the State, the public at large, or entities granted the power of eminent domain under law or for the elimination of urban blight on a particular parcel of property, but not for certain economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes, and to limit the legislature’s authority to grant the power of eminent domain to an entity.”

This is a rather narrowly-written amendment, but it represents a significant increase in property rights protection. The amendment was written in direct response to the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court case. This case ruled that an increased property value, and subsequent increased property tax take, was a public use, and therefore private property could be transferred from one owner to another if the new owner would pay more property taxes than the current owner. In the Kelo case, the City of New London, Connecticut, took Suzette Kelo's (and many of her neighbor's) home and gave it to Pfizer because the complex that Pfizer would build would be be valued higher and worth more in property taxes than the homeowners in the neighborhood. Proposition 11 would effectively prohibit governments in Texas from using eminent domain to take land for anything other than explicit public purpose. Eminent domain is one of the most anti-liberty powers that governments have, so it should be strictly limited. Prop 11 would apply some necessary common sense restrictions to that power.

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