Voters in Mississippi are at the polls today to elect a new governor and legislature as well as decide upon a number of measures. Among them is Initiative 31, a citizen's initiative for a constitutional amendment to prohibit the state and local governments from using the power of eminent domain to condemn private property and transfer it to another private individual or entity for a period of 10 years after acquisition. Initiative 31 has garnered much media attention and Campaign Insider has called this a "ballot battle to watch."
Since Kelo, Mississippi remains one of only 7 states that has not yet enacted statutory provisions to protect its citizens from private to private property transfers via eminent domain. Mississippians and their legislators have tried twice in the past to pass eminent domain legislation. However, outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour (R) vetoed both pieces of legislation. (See our previous posts here, here and here.)
It's no secret that Gov. Barbour opposes Initiate 31. Barbour has argued that it will diminish the state’s ability to attract private
investment and create jobs. Mississippi’s gubernatorial candidates disagree and have supported Initiative 31. The Mississippi Farm Bureau and the more than 100,000 voters who signed the petition to put Initiative 31 on the ballot also disagree with Barbour. Randy Knight, a Mississippi dairy farmer and president of the state Farm Bureau Federation, has argued "Other states have adopted a strong eminent
domain law. They're still getting jobs. They're still getting economic
development. They're still getting businesses to come set up in their
state." (See Fox News report 11/3/11 here.) Further, Initiative 31 would not apply to all eminent domain actions allowing for exemptions for levee facilities,
roads, bridges, ports, airports, common carriers, drainage facilities
and utilities, or true public uses.
Fox News also quoted Leland Speed, the director of Mississippi's Development Authority, "This is a very emotional topic," he said.
"It's motherhood and apple pie."
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