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Kelo Protection

There is a fair amount of angst regarding Prop 11, designed to address the very real problems presented by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo v New London decision. In that case, the Supreme Court eviscerated our property rights by allowing local government to take one person’s property and give it to another in the name of economic development or tax revenue growth. The only exception is if the particular state where the action occurs prohibits such takings. Texas currently does not.

Proposition 11 attempts to do that, stopping the very real abuses underway right now.

From Freeport to El Paso, municipalities have been hard at work with plans to gobble up “under-utilized” properties. That is, property they want to give to someone else who will generate more taxes with it. These are real, clear and present threats.

Many well-meaning folks are arguing against the proposition for what it might do, or might someday allow, or because they fear it isn’t strong enough. Those are in some cases fair concerns, but they can be resolved in the future. Again, the property rights abuses are clear, present, imminent and, in many cases, already underway. So make no mistake, Prop 11 is much stronger protection than anything on the books.

Specifically, Prop 11 forbids “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.”

The most important part is at the front: prohibiting government from taking lands that the government won’t itself be using. That means your property might still be taken to build a school or a prison, but it won’t be handed over to a developer of coffee shops or minimarts. Second, it prohibits takings for economic development or to generate more taxes. Finally, it limits the legislature’s future authority to hand out eminent domain power.

If one is worried about the boogey-man behind the distant tree, then it can and should be addressed in the next session. This amendment is important for very real threats and dangers faced by property owners around the state, right now. Private property rights are fundamental to our liberty. I hope you’ll join us in supporting Prop 11.

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is the CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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