Perry signs bill limiting eminent domain: Austin (TX) Business Journal, 9/1/05

A new law will protect Texans against government entities that may want to seize their private property on behalf of private ventures.

"These projects, often in the name of economic development, should not come at the expense of people's private property rights," says Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed Senate Bill 7 into law this week.

"There is no bigger supporter of economic development than I. But I draw the line when government begins to pick winners and losers among competing private interests, and the loser is the poor Texan who owns the land to begin with."

In Austin, the fate of Player's, a popular burger joint located near the University of Texas campus, recently became the subject of eminent domain after university officials announced plans to build a new conference center and hotel.

The university was trying to acquire land around the Player's site, located at Martin Luther King Boulevard and University Avenue, to build the conference center and hotel by 2008.

"The legislation I am proud to sign today means mom and pop businesses and residential property must be willingly sold — not unfairly seized — when a project's purpose is private profit-making," Perry says.

Perry added that the law also establishes a commission to further study the eminent domain issue during the legislative interim because this area of the law likely will be subject to great debate and scrutiny.

Perry opened the call of the recent special session to the issue of eminent domain after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expanded the right of government entities to use their powers of eminent domain to seize private property to allow another private entity to develop the property for economic development purposes.

Perry says government must wield its powers of eminent domain "only when property is vital to achieving a compelling public good," such as in the construction of schools, public roads and utility lines.

Austin Business Journal: http://austin.bizjournals.com