Texas voters OK limits on use of eminent domain

| 11/6/2009

Concerns about privatized toll roads spurred Texas voters to easily approve one proposition on the statewide ballot limiting the government’s eminent domain powers.

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, by an 81-19 percent margin, voters in the Lone Star State decided 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 will be added to the Texas Constitution and will limit government authority to take private property through eminent domain. It prohibits 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 said adding it to the state Constitution strengthens the ban. One change will be requiring public “ownership, use and enjoyment” of property.

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

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

Others said the question left loopholes for seizing property for economic development. With the amendment’s approval, they believe it will be much more difficult for needed reforms to happen.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas in 2009, 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.