Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Eminent Domain Bill Signing San Antonio

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005  •  Speech

Thank you.  Before I speak to the issue for which we have gathered today, let me first speak about the tragedy that is on all of our hearts and minds:…
…and that is the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Because of the extraordinary damage done by this storm, there are thousands of people from Louisiana and Mississippi who are calling Texas their temporary home.

On behalf of all Texans, I say to each of these guests that we are very sorry for your loss, and we want you to know you are welcome to stay here as long as necessary.

This morning I spoke to Governor Blanco of Louisiana. 

Because of the sheer devastation to New Orleans, she asked if Texas would be willing to accept 23,000 people currently taking shelter at the Superdome.

I told her “Absolutely, Texas is happy to do its part to help them get through this tragedy.”

Before this request came in, yesterday we discussed with Harris County Judge Robert Eckels the idea of turning the Astrodome into a long-term shelter to meet the housing, food and medical needs of those already stranded here in Texas. 

He agreed and the Astrodome’s schedule has already been cleared until December.

So in the very near future, we expect the Astrodome will be receiving hurricane victims brought to Texas on close to 500 buses arranged by FEMA.

We have made contingency shelter arrangements in Jefferson County too, where Judge Griffith graciously agreed to covert the Ford Center into a long-term shelter. 

As people currently taking refuge in hotels and begin to run short on resources, we expect there will be a growing need for shelters beyond the many we have identified and opened to this date….
…so we will continue to pursue contingency arrangements.

In the face of such tragic circumstances, we all have to pull together so these families have as much normalcy as possible during these difficult times.

That’s especially important for children who have been suddenly uprooted from their daily routine, including school.

I want stranded families to know the doors of Texas’ public schools are immediately open to your school-aged children. 

Under federal law these children are entitled to enroll in the school district where they temporarily reside.

I also want school leaders to know that we realize this will put a strain on their capacity, so I have asked the Texas Education Agency to work them to make sure they have the textbooks they need…
…funding for transportation and the free-and-reduced lunch program…
…and class size waivers as needed.

In addition, as of yesterday I have mobilized a medical task force of the Texas National Guard…
…that includes eight doctors, five nurses, 10 physician assistants and 30 combat medics. 

They are heading to Pineville, Louisiana today.

One last action I want to mention. 

The State of Florida has made an urgent request for a two-week supply of gasoline because of a pipeline disruption caused by Katrina.

To meet this need, I have asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to exercise enforcement discretion to allow for the loading of fuel from a refinery site in Port Arthur on marine vessels that will transport this fuel to Florida.

We are coordinating with the Environmental Protection Agency concerning any regulatory waivers needed to meet this urgent need.

I also want to assure Texans of two important facts regarding this action:…
…it will not lead to a disruption in the Texas fuel supply…
…and secondly we will be monitoring emissions during the loading process.

(pause)

We are all in this together.  And when a neighbor is in need, Texans always extend a helping hand.

We will continue to do what it takes…
…from offering assistance to offering prayers…
…to get through this together, as one American Family.

(long pause)

There are few things Texans cherish as much…
…or more…than their private property rights. 

We are a people with a strong history of privately-owned land, and we believe government should not encroach upon private property rights unless there is an imminent public need.

Today I am proud to sign legislation that protects Texans’ private property from being seized to benefit another private interest. 

Senate Bill 7 seeks to close the door the United States Supreme Court jarred open with the Kelo decision this summer.

That decision by our nation’s highest court set a dangerous precedent:…
…it gave government the power to seize private property on behalf of other private ventures that may be more lucrative.

These projects, often in the name of economic development, should not come at the expense of people’s private property rights. 
There is no bigger supporter of economic development than me. 

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.

The message here today is that the ends do not justify the means. 

Just because a new strip mall or skyscraper has great money-making potential does not mean someone’s home or business should be torn down as the means to justify that profit-making end.

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.


Today we are on the grounds of Columbia Industries…
…a company that has been making bowling balls in San Antonio for a number of years. 

They shouldn’t be shut down simply because someone in government thinks another private project might bring in more revenue. 

Because of Senate Bill 7, they and millions of businesses and homeowners will be protected from abusive land property seizures.

In addition, Senate Bill 7 establishes a commission to further study this issue during the legislative interim because we anticipate this area of the law will be subject to great debate and scrutiny as we go forward.

(pause)

The power of eminent domain is the power of government to dramatically change people’s lives by taking their property. 

This power must not be used lightly nor broadly…
…only when property is vital to achieving a compelling public good. 

There will always be a need to build roads and schools…
…and construct new utility lines…
…among other public needs. 

That is part of the challenge of meeting the needs of a growing population. 

Eminent domain for public use is a necessary power. 

Eminent domain for private use is a great threat to Texans’ rights.

I commend Senator Kyle Janek of Houston for his leadership on this issue. 

I also want to credit Representative Frank Corte for taking a leading role in addressing the Kelo decision. 

It should be noted…
…in a political climate where disagreement often gets the headlines…
…that this bill receive support from a strong, bipartisan coalition, showing how Republicans and Democrats can work together to pass important legislation in a swift manner.

As a farmer and rancher by trade, I know how important private land is to advancing Texans’ dreams. 

Today we are protecting Texans’ dreams…
…and upholding our state’s strong tradition of private ownership…
… by limiting the power of eminent domain. 

I am proud to put my name on this visionary bill…but before I do that, let me first introduce the bill’s author, senator Kyle Janek…

Let me also introduce a strong leader in the House on this issue who immediately showed leadership in the wake of the Supreme Court Decision…Representative Frank Corte…
We would be happy to open up to questions from members of the media…

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