AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry recently urged lawmakers to add an amendment to the state constitution to fortify property owners’ rights against abuses of eminent domain. The governor spoke at a press conference with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“Through Senate Bill 7, we made it clear that Texans will not tolerate taking land for economic development or giving it to a private developer,” Gov. Perry said. “Unless we take action on these protections, private property rights in Texas will begin to erode and undermine the very character of our state.”

Senate Bill 7 was passed in 2005 during a special session of the 79th Legislature, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London ruled that government entities could use eminent domain authority for economic development projects rather than traditional public uses. The bill prohibits acquisition of land for non public purposes, such as commercial economic development or private use.

The governor was joined by state Sen. Robert Duncan and Rep. Rob Orr who will propose legislation to fortify property rights, and Susette Kelo, plaintiff in the Kelo v. New London case. Sen. Duncan will also propose a constitutional amendment to prevent private property from being taken for economic or private development purposes.

Gov. Perry also cautioned against use of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Hubenak v. San Jacinto Gas Transmission Co., which allows government entities to make an unreasonably low offer on a person’s property, and then respond to an owner’s refusal by taking the land. The governor also commended Rep. Jim Jackson for sponsoring the constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2007, allowing landowners to buy back land at the price the government paid for it if it is not used for the project it was taken for.

“Government shouldn’t use eminent domain to take someone’s land without trying to buy it from them first,” Gov. Perry said. “It is wrong for any government to make a lowball offer, then respond to an owner’s righteous refusal by taking the land. The government owes land owners a genuine good-faith negotiation, not a land grab.”