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Texas Proposition 11 (2009)

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Texas Proposition 11, also known as House Joint Resolution 14-1, appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

The measure prohibits the government from acquiring land for non-public use. Proposition 11 also requires the government to determine if each property in a neighborhood is blighted before deciding if the neighborhood itself is blighted. According to Sen. Robert Duncan, sponsored the amendment: “Texas voters are the most appropriate authority on the government's use of eminent domain. This proposition gives them the final word on that authority.”[1].


Election results

Texas Proposition 11 was approved by voters on the night of November 3, 2009.[2]

Texas Proposition 11, Land for non-public use prohibition
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 845,770 81.02%
No198,12018.97%

Constitutional changes

See also: Amending the Texas Constitution

The amendment will:[3]

  • Specifically prohibit the taking of private property to give to another private entity for the purpose of economic development or enhanced tax revenue.
  • Limit the use and ownership of property taken by eminent domain to either the state or the public at large
  • Require new entities seeking the power of eminent domain to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature
  • Require condemnation for urban blight to address each particular property

Text of measure

Private West Texas farm

The short ballot summary Texas voters saw on their ballot was "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."[4]

Support

Proponents included the Texas Farm Bureau, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.[5]

Arguments

The Texas Farm Bureau voiced their support of the measure, making a statement on October 2, 2009 on their website. Kenneth Dierschke, president of the organization, wrote the column on the Texas Farm Bureau’s website:

  • The amendment protects property owners in a state that “takes pride in property ownership.” Also among the reasons to vote “yes” on the measure is that passage would pave a way for further eminent domain reform in the future, such as compensation to owners who have lost their property access rights.
  • Dierschke stated: "Eminent domain is not something people think about until their land, home or business property is taken. That power is being misused and abused in Texas. Proposition 11 does not fix all of the problems, but is a good first step toward eminent domain reform."

The National Taxpayers Union supported Proposition 11 because they argued that if adopted the measure would protect taxpayers from arbitrary or corrupt deals where governments take private property for business development or other purposes. Due to the group's suppot of the measure, NTU gave it a positive rating in their 2009 General Election Ballot Guide.

Campaigning and events

The political action committee for Proposition 11, “PAC off! It’s my Land!”, is made up of multiple associates and state leaders that stated their concerns of the government taking private property. Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples is the treasurer of the political action committee. Staples stated that the group would raise funds and launch a multi-media grassroots and social networking campaign. According to the group, their goal was to ban the taking of private property by eminent domain, and also make a part of the Texas Constitution.

Early voting started on October 19, 2009, and Staples said that their campaign began then and followed through all the way to the November election:

  • According to Staples: "The critical question for homeowners and other private property owners is not can you afford the time to vote in this election, rather it's can you afford not to? A vote for Prop 11 is a vote for property owner piece of mind and protection."[6]

Opposition

The Texans United for Reform and Freedom group, also known as TURF, opposed Proposition 11. "I think it's wide open for lots of chicanery. They can take your land for who knows what [reason]," said Terri Hall, founder and director of TURF.[5]

Arguments

Opponents, including the Texans United for Reform and Freedom (TURF), argued that proposition 11:[7]

  • leaves loopholes for seizing property for economic development
  • leaves issues unanswered such as diminished access to land after seizure and relocation assistance

In a commentary by Terri Hall published by the San Antonio Express-News, member of the Texans United for Reform and Freedom, she stated:

  • Proposition 11 is nothing more than lawmakers writing a “convoluted amendment to the Texas Constitution that comes back to haunt us”.
  • Hall goes on to state: “We witnessed Gov. Rick Perry weaken this legislation all through the 81st Legislature to reduce the amendment to a virtually meaningless attempt at eminent domain reform.”[8]
  • Hall again addressed the issue in another commentary in for Texas Insider by stating:"You have to ask yourself, if Rick Perry vetoed REAL eminent domain reform in 2007 (HB 2006), why would Perry stage a photo-op ceremonial signing of this constitutional amendment in front of the Alamo in 2009 when it didn’t even need his signature? Because it’s not genuine eminent domain reform. His show-boating is because he’s running for re-election, and he knows that veto of HB 2006 cost him the Farm Bureau’s endorsement."[9]

Regional problems could arise with the passage of Proposition 4, according to J.D. Phaup, a political-science professor at Texas A&M University at Kingsville. According to Phaup, schools in South Texas are lacking in doctoral and professional programs offered. The proposed seven Tier One schools could receive more and more of the state’s top students. Phaup stated: “South Texas below San Antonio, which has been underserved by doctoral and professional schools, will be locked out from significant growth in these kinds of programs for decades to come if the state makes this commitment to create essentially seven more UT-Austin/Texas A&M-College Station national research or Tier 1 institutions.”[10]

Campaign contributions

$79,250 was reported to have been contributed to campaigns relating to Proposition 11, all in support under the committee "PAC off it's my land."[11]

Media editorial positions

Main article: Endorsements of Texas ballot measures, 2009

Editorial boards in support

  • The Star-Telegram supported Proposition 11. They said,"Proposition 11 would require that any condemned property be held and used by a public entity for a legitimate public purpose. It also would restrict cities’ ability to take and improve blighted property. Cities now can declare entire neighborhoods to be areas of blight; Proposition 11 would require that blight be proven on each individual property. Finally, Proposition 11 would restrict the Legislature’s ability to award the power of eminent domain to any new entities. Doing so would require a two-thirds vote of each house, which is hard to accomplish. There is no denying that Texans of late have been in a mood to restrict the use of eminent domain. With Proposition 11, that’s exactly what they would get."[12]

Editorial boards opposed

  • The Austin Chronicle opposed Proposition 11. They said,"While in general we don't care for land seizures for private development, this is yet another poorly drafted attempt to amplify the current property-rightist wave of eminent domain hysteria and an invitation to endless court fights over rational public policy."[13]
  • The El Paso Times is opposed to the proposition. They said,"This proposition concerns eminent domain and the wording is much too broad. Eminent domain is a necessary governmental power, but it must not be used to victimize helpless property owners. Take undeveloped land to build an auto plant? Sure. Take someone's home to build a big-box store? No."[14]

Aftermath

The Texans United for Reform and Freedom, who opposed the measure, stated their displeasure with the result of the elections, stating that the voters sent a strong message of eminent domain reform, but also said that the ballot measure does not solve the problem. According to Terri Hall, founder of the group: "The Texas Legislature needs to continue the push for further reforms and to prevent abuses."[15]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing direct democracy in Texas

The Texas House of Representatives approved the proposed amendment on May 11, 2009 with a vote of 144-0, followed by the State Senate on May 25, 2009 with a vote of 30-1.Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the legislation on June 15, 2009, therefore allowing voters to decide on the constitutional amendment in the fall.[16][17]

As laid out in Article 17 of the Texas Constitution, in order for a proposed constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot, the Texas State Legislature must propose the amendment in a joint resolution of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. The joint resolution can originate in either the House or the Senate. The resolution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Senate.

See also

External links

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