AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation called on the 81st Texas Legislature to enact legislation that would end the abuse by political subdivisions of their eminent domain authority.

“Property rights and freedom in America were turned upside down with the Kelo decision,” said Bill Peacock, Director of the Foundation’s Center for Economic Freedom. “In cities like El Paso, Freeport, Houston and Austin, property owners have seen local governments move on their land – not for public uses but for private enrichment and economic development.”

At a press conference today with Gov. Rick Perry, Susette Kelo, and other property rights advocates, Peacock recommended four legislative reforms that would protect property owners against improper government takings:

– Define “public use” in statute – Eliminate the blight/slum loophole in Texas law – Make it easier for property owners to challenge determinations of public use – End the use of eminent domain for land speculation

In Kelo v. New London, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government entities could use its eminent domain authority not just for “public uses” but also for economic development projects. Since then, cities across Texas have moved to seize property from individual landowners and business for transfer to private real-estate developers.

“While the Texas Legislature responded quickly to the initial Kelo ruling, the fixes turned out to be far less than needed,” Peacock said. “It is time for the legislature to end eminent domain abuse and restore to Texans their most basic of freedoms – the right to keep their property.”

The Foundation opened its 7th Annual Policy Orientation for the Texas Legislature with a policy discussion on eminent domain and property rights. The featured presenters were Susette Kelo, the plaintiff in Kelo v. New London; her co-counsel and Institute for Justice senior attorney Dana Berliner; and award-winning investigative journalist Jeff Benedict, author of the new book, “Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.

Bill Peacock is Director of the Center for Economic Freedom at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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