Mississippi Eminent Domain Amendment, Initiative 31 (2011)
The measure proposed prohibiting state and local government from taking private property by eminent domain and then conveying it to other persons/businesses for a period of 10 years. However, the measure allowed for an exemption for levee facilities, roads, bridges, ports, airports, common carriers, drainage facilities and utilities. According to reports, the proposed amendment would not apply to public nuisances, structures unfit for human habitation or abandoned property.
On September 30, 2010 supporters submitted an estimated 119,251 petition signatures. In order to qualify for the ballot, a minimum of 89,285 signatures were required. The Mississippi Secretary of State certified the measure for the 2011 ballot on October 25, 2010.
This measure developed out of a 2005 United States Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. The court ruled that the city could in fact take away people's homes and give the property to a private party who could in turn develop the property. The court ruled that the tax revenue would benefit the public and therefore the property was used for the public.
- See also: 2011 ballot measure election results
|Mississippi Initiative 31|
Official results via the Mississippi Secretary of State's website.
Text of measure
The title of the proposed amendment read as follows:
Should government be prohibited from taking private property by eminent domain and then transferring it to other persons?
The summary of the amendment read as follows:
Initiative #31 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to prohibit state and local government from taking private property by eminent domain and then conveying it to other persons or private businesses for a period of ten years after acquisition. Exceptions from the prohibition include drainage and levee facilities, roads, bridges, ports, airports, common carriers, and utilities. The prohibition would not apply in certain situations, including public nuisance, structures unfit for human habitation, or abandoned property.
According to the Mississippi Legislative Budget Office's fiscal analysis:
- There is no determinable cost or revenue impact associated with this initiative.
The proposed measure was primarily supported by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau President David Waide said, "Our policy has always been for stronger eminent domain laws. We have a real problem with just anybody taking property away from owners."
- Four 2011 candidates for the office of Mississippi Governor stated their support for the amendment. Those candidates were: Phil Bryant, Dave Dennis, Johnny DuPree and Bill Luckett.
- Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
- Sen. Lee Yancey
- Bob Usey, former State Senator
- Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood
- Two 2011 candidates for Mississippi Agricultural Commissioner, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Joel Gill
- Initiative organizer David Waide argued for the measure, stating, "I believe it's guaranteed in our constitution for every property owner to have the right to our property and not to be worried about government taking it for any reason other than true public use."
- In a letter to the editor of the Sun Herald, state resident J.B. Brown argued for the initiative: "I have no problem with a person selling their property to a business. What I have a problem with, and what is so un-American about the situation, is that government can take your property away from you for a lower price than a business should pay. We can stop this from happening in Mississippi; there is a ballot initiative that would keep the government from taking property and transferring it to a business for a period of 10 years."
- According to a column by Randy Knight, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation: "Farm Bureau's stance has always been that economic development situations are best handled with a willing buyer and a willing seller. Economic development can and does occur without the use of eminent domain. We need to do everything we can to inhibit government from using eminent domain for private economic development. I urge people to vote "yes" on [Initiative 31]."
- Knight also stated: "The idea that the law protects people and there's no need for these is just untrue. Mississippi doesn't have the strong reform legislation and the Mississippi Supreme Court hasn't weighed in on it because eminent domain actions have been dropped."
- State Senator Lee Yancey said, "Property rights are one of the most basic rights we have. It's wrong to take people's property and give it to a business so that it can profit off of it."
- Bob Usey, former State Senator in Mississippi stated: "Mississippians should overwhelmingly pass Initiative No. 31. We already have eminent domain procedures in place for "justly taking land" when someone wants to stand in the way of a major highway, bridge, etc. The taking of private property through eminent domain by a governmental body and then transferring it to other persons in the private sector is not right in any society for any reason."
- Incumbent Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood was a supporter of the measure.
- Two candidates for the position of Mississippi Agricultural Commissioner, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Joel Gill, both gave their support for the measure, stating at the time that they believed it would protect ownership of private property.
According to the state campaign finance database, there were no registered committees (PACs).
(last updated October 2011)
- According to Clarion Ledger Editorial Director David Hampton at the time before the election took place, the initiative and referendum process brought up causes for concern. In a column, Ledger stated, "The idea of initiative and referendum has always worried me. It creates many more problems than it solves. It can result in some downright stupid and dangerous public policy." Later, Ledger commented on the three Mississippi initiatives that were certified for the ballot in 2011: Mississippians will be asked to vote on three initiatives this year, at least at this point. Two are being challenged in court and may or may not make the ballot in November. We'll see...In my opinion, not only are these items not needed, they actually can do some harm, especially the eminent domain and personhood amendments."
- In a guest editorial in the Clarion Ledger, the writer, who was not mentioned by name, stated about the measure if it stayed on the ballot pending litigation: "The court case is likely to be argued on fairly narrow legal grounds, but if the state Supreme Court decides the initiative will stay on the ballot, voters will have to determine the issue on its policy merits. If that happens, voters will need to think long and hard before taking an important tool out of the hands of the people trying to secure jobs for a state that badly needs them."
- Governor Barbour argued, "If this initiative were to pass and go into effect, it would gut state economic development efforts. There is a far better, more effective way to protect private property from improper takings than this."
- According to Leland Speed, in a letter to the Laurel Leader-Call, he argued: "Eminent domain still would be used to acquire land for roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure projects. Only economic development would be affected by the initiative, and Mississippi would be prevented from competing with other states to attract the jobs we so desperately need. Without eminent domain, Mississippi would never have competed successfully for Nissan, Toyota or the Stennis Space Center. We cannot afford to close the door on future economic development projects that would create thousands of jobs."
- In 2009, Governor Haley Barbour vetoed a bill that proposed limiting the state's authority to take property. Barbour argued such bills would hinder the state's ability to attract industry. Dan Turner, the governor's spokesperson said,"Eliminating eminent domain is a good way to severely hurt Mississippi's ability to compete for economic development and create more and better jobs."
- State Senator Johnnie Walls said, "I have mixed feelings about eminent domain. People need jobs, and I would think the government needs to make sure that there's a valid reason for using (eminent domain)."
According to the state campaign finance database, there were no registered committees (PACs).
(last updated October 2011)
- The Clarion Ledger expressed their opinion of the measure in an editorial, writing: "What's really frustrating is that Mississippi's eminent domain law already bends over backwards to protect property owners. Unlike some other states, it's frankly just not an issue here. Rather than protecting property owners, the initiative would just kill jobs."
- See also: Polls, 2011 ballot measures
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|November 4-6, 2011||Public Policy Polling||51%||39%||10%||796|
|2011 measure lawsuits|
|California • Colorado• Illinois |
Mississippi • Missouri
Nebraska • Ohio • Texas
|By lawsuit type|
|Ballot text |
Motivation of sponsors
It was reported on June 5, 2011 that a lawsuit was filed in Hinds County Circuit Court challenging the ballot measure. The lawsuit was filed against the Mississippi Secretary of State's office by Leland Speed, a Mississippi businessman who was the leader of the Mississippi Development Authority. However, Speed stated that he filed the lawsuit as a private citizen. According to Speed: “This initiative will hurt opportunities for thousands of Mississippians for better jobs and for better lives."
Specifically, the lawsuit challenged that the measure was unconstitutional, as Speed argued that it attempted to amend the state's Bill of Rights, which he said cannot be changed by initiative.
Ruling and appeal
Kidd ruled on July 29, 2011 that the initiative could stay on the ballot. Kidd ruled that the initiative did not conflict with the Mississippi Constitution's Bill of Rights. According to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who was against eminent domain restrictions, stated that the ruling could be appealed in the Mississippi Supreme Court.
A three-judge panel with the Mississippi Supreme Court reviewed the ruling, as justices agreed to expedite the appeal. They also requested that paperwork be submitted by August 12, 2011. The measure eventually stayed on the ballot.
Path to the ballot
- See also: Mississippi signature requirements
When introducing a citizen-initiated ballot measure in the state, the first step is to file a typewritten copy of the proposed initiative with the Mississippi Secretary of State. The sponsor has the authority to accept or reject any of the recommendations from the Revisor of the Statutes, who receives the initiative from the secretary. The Attorney General will then draft the ballot title (not exceeding 20 words) and the ballot summary (not exceeding 75 words). The Attorney General will file both the title and summary with the Secretary of State, who will then notify the sponsor by certified mail of the exact language in the ballot title and summary. Once the ballot title and ballot summary have been finalized, the sponsor may begin collecting signatures.
- See also: Signature requirements in Mississippi
To qualify for the ballot, its supporters must have garnered about 89,284 valid signatures. According to Mississippi law, the number of signatures collected must be greater than 12% of the total number of votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial general election.
Mississippi has a distribution requirement: 20% from each of the five congressional districts. According to Section 273, Paragraph (3) of the Mississippi Constitution, "The signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot. If an initiative petition contains signatures from a single congressional district which exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of required signatures, the excess number of signatures from that congressional district shall not be considered by the Secretary of State in determining whether the petition qualifies for placement on the ballot."
According to September 12, 2010 reports, supporters announced they had gathered almost enough signatures to qualify the measure for the 2011 ballot. Supporters continued to circulate petitions in the old 4th District and 2nd District.
Signature filing and verification
On September 30, 2010 supporters submitted petition signatures. The Mississippi Secretary of State certified that 119,692 valid signatures were filed, exceeding the minimum requirements. The measure was referred to the 2011 ballot following certification on October 25, 2010.
The measure was an indirect initiated constitutional amendment, which means that it was proposed by citizens through initiative and does not go immediately to the ballot after a successful petition drive to collect sufficient valid signatures. Rather, once the signatures are collected, the amendment that the citizens are proposing must first be submitted to the state legislature for consideration. Only after the state legislature has considered and possibly also taken a limited range of options that may affect the amendment does it go on the statewide ballot for consideration by the voters.
The Mississippi House of Representatives on January 12, 2011 passed a bill similar to the initiative. The measure was sent to the Mississippi State Senate. The measure was not passed by the senate, keeping the measure on the ballot in 2011.
The following is a timeline of events relating to the measure:
|Signature gathering||Sept. 12, 2010||Supporters announced they had gathered almost enough signatures to qualify the measure.|
|Signatures submission||Sept. 30, 2010||Supporters submitted an estimated 119,251 petition signatures.|
|Signatures verified||Oct. 25, 2010||The Mississippi Secretary of State certified the measure for the 2011 ballot.|
|Legislative review||Jan. 4, 2011||Initiative presented to Legislature for review.|
|Legislative action||Jan. 12, 2011||The Mississippi House of Representatives passed a bill similar to the initiative, sending it to the state senate.|
The following are measures that have been on or have been proposed for other statewide ballots:
- The Nevada eminent domain amendment was on the 2010 ballot, where it was approved. The measure prohibited the taking of private property if it was to be transferred to a private party.
- Eminent domain-related measures that did not make a ballot can be found here.
- The Natchez Democrat,"Eminent domain issue on horizon," October 3, 2010
- Associated Press,"Miss. Farm Bureau pushes property-rights petition," September 14, 2010
- The Greenwood Commonwealth,"Defending land ownership," April 10, 2010
- Associated Press,"Petitions Push Land Rights," April 5, 2010
- First week of session interesting
- Voters to get lesson on initiatives
- Let people decide fate of eminent domain
- Secretary of state to hold hearing around Mississippi on ballot initiatives
- Weighing Personhood Initiative's effects could be profound
- Clarion Ledger,"Eminent domain: No 'reform' needed," October 4, 2010
- Clarion Ledger,"Property: Voters should reject petition," April 8, 2010
- Initiatives stack up as a GOP trifecta
- ↑ The Webster Progress-Times,"Petition aims for eminent domain reform," July 8, 2010
- ↑ Mississippi Secretary of State "Eminent domain", Retrieved December 17, 2010
- ↑ Starkville Daily News,"Petition aims for eminent domain reform," June 10, 2010
- ↑ WLBT,"Campaign launched to restrict eminent domain take-overs," April 4, 2010
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Associated Press,"Eminent domain initiative to be on November 2011 ballot," October 25, 2010
- ↑ Associated Press,"Petitions to ban eminent domain submitted in Miss.," October 1, 2010
- ↑ Y'all Politics,"Farm Bureau launches Eminent Domain Reform petition drive in Mississippi," March 18, 2010
- ↑ Mississippi Secretary of State, "Sample Official Election Ballot", Retrieved September 19, 2011
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Saving My Land,"Eminent Domain Initiative Text," retrieved March 22, 2010
- ↑ Mississippi Secretary of State, "Initiative 31 Brochure", Retrieved August 18, 2011
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Westport-news.com, "Miss. eminent domain ballot initiative in court", July 25, 2011
- ↑ WLBT.com, "Voter ID and eminent domain on November ballot", January 4, 2011
- ↑ Sun Herald, "Eminent domain is being abused", August 29, 2011
- ↑ Gulf Live, "Eminent domain reform needed right now (your word)", October 15, 2011
- ↑ Hattiesburg American, "Voters to tackle eminent domain", October 29, 2011
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 Clarion Ledger,"Petitions push land rights," April 4, 2010
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Bryant, Hewes failed leadership test with eminent domain", July 29, 2011
- ↑ Sun Herald, "Hood, Simpson sound off on ballot initiatives", October 8, 2011
- ↑ Sun Herald, "Agriculture candidates back initiative on eminent domain", September 17, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Miss. ballot initiatives are cause for concern", June 10, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Barbour has battled to keep eminent domain", June 10, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Eminent domain's many gray areas", June 16, 2011
- ↑ Laurel Leader-Call, "Eminent domain helpful for state", July 24, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Eminent domain: Vital to luring jobs", August 5, 2011
- ↑ Public Policy Polling, "Toss Up on Mississippi ‘Personhood’ Amendment", November 7, 2011
- ↑ Lauren Leader-Call, "Eminent domain amendment attacked in lawsuit", June 5, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Suit filed to save eminent domain", June 4, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Ruling likely this week on ballot measure", July 25, 2011
- ↑ Natchez Democrat, "Judge: Land-taking restriction can go on ballot", July 29, 2011
- ↑ WTVA.com, "Eminent domain initiative back in court", August 3, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Eminent domain deadline Aug. 12", August 3, 2011
- ↑ Associated Press,"Farm Bureau to deliver signatures for initiative," September 29, 2010
- ↑ Sun Herald,"Eminent domain might be on the ballot for 2011," September 30, 2010
- ↑ Associated Press,"Miss. Farm Bureau says its eminent domain petition has enough signatures in most of the state," September 12, 2010
- ↑ The Clarion-Ledger,"Eminent domain petition drive 'on schedule'," June 18, 2010
- ↑ Sun Herald, "Eminent domain restrictions pass Mississippi House", January 12, 2011