Texas ballot issue would limit use of eminent domain

| 10/22/2009

Concerns about privatized toll roads have spurred the inclusion of one issue on next month’s Texas ballot.

On Nov. 3, voters in the Lone Star State will head to their local polling places to cast ballots on several issues of importance. Among the items on the statewide ballot is a question about whether to prohibit state government from taking private property and handing it over to a private developer to increase the local tax base.

Proposition 11 on the ballot gives voters the opportunity to add to the Texas Constitution a limitation on government authority to take private property through eminent domain. It would prohibit the transfer of such property to a private entity for the primary purpose of economic development, such as a toll road.

However, governments still could seize property for public roads.

A 2005 Texas law prohibits taking of private property for purposes of economic development or the benefit of a private party. But supporters of the proposition say adding it to the state Constitution would strengthen the ban. One change would be requiring public “ownership, use and enjoyment” of property.

In addition, supporters say the proposition would limit expansion of eminent domain. A two-thirds vote of the Texas Legislature would be required to authorize eminent domain to an entity.

Opponents say this effort is unnecessary because Texas law already prohibits taking private property by eminent domain for economic development.

Others say the question leaves loopholes for seizing property for economic development. They believe if voters approve the amendment the needed reforms will not happen.

Early voting in Texas runs until Friday, Oct. 30. On Election Day, polls open at 7 a.m. CST and close at 7 p.m. CST. For information on early/absentee voting, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s note: Please share your thoughts with us about Proposition 11. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.