Economic developers and those individuals and organizations involved in the attraction of industry and business to our state, have a strong ally in Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. They are not as popular or considered quite as essential to our existence by the State’s legislature.
Following a favorable vote by the State Senate, the State House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in approval of legislation to limit the ability of governments in our state to use the power of eminent domain to condemn and take private land from citizens to be used by another private entity. According to reports, only three members of the 122 member House of Representatives voted against this legislation.
We have seen farms and land, right here in Union County, that have been in family ownership for generations unceremoniously condemned and taken for the purpose of allowing an economic prospect use the land for their own private profit-making purposes, all in the name of economic development or progress. While this legislation, if signed by Governor Barbour, which is very unlikely, will not affect any of the Toyota projects in Northeast Mississippi, enacted would affect future development projects across the state.
The Governor’s argument for, once again, defying the will of the people, as demonstrated by the vote of the members of both houses of the legislature, is that by limiting the government and its surrogates ability to take peoples land and give it to someone else for private purposes and profit, our ability to “lure” Toyota-type industry and economic development for our state. With this argument’s theory, your Governor will probably veto the legislation and your legislature, after all the enthusiasm to push legislation through that truly represents the public’s wishes, will, as usual, faint away and not override the veto.
In other states, the liberal application of the laws of eminent domain has resulted in the condemnation of private citizen’s homes to make way for shopping centers, as the powers of eminent domain have also been abdicated to economic development non-profit organizations with no public responsibility. To not insist that our state government and economic development agencies be limited in their use of what once was a power only used by a governmental entity and then only in the absolute necessity to pursue a public project for the good of the people, is to allow more and more private, corporate control over our lives.
If this legislation is vetoed, we urge our representatives to vote to over-ride and put these limitation into law.