Kalich opinion: Limiting property rights is emotional

Lydia Chassaniol has been taking a bit of a beating for supporting Haley Barbour’s veto of a bill to bar the use of eminent domain for economic development projects.

The Republican senator from Winona, like the overwhelming majority of her legislative colleagues, originally voted for the restriction.

She and 21 other senators, however, were persuaded to change their vote after listening to the governor and economic development officials around the state warn that the bill could jeopardize Mississippi from ever landing another blockbuster economic development project again.

“It was a difficult vote,” Chassaniol said. “After I studied the issue more carefully and listened to the voices of people like Ronnie Robertson and Allan Hammons, I just had to change my mind.”

Robertson is chairman of the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation, and Hammons, the owner of a Greenwood ad agency, has been actively involved in this community’s industrial recruiting efforts for years.

Neither Robertson nor Hammons wants to see government trample willy-nilly over anyone’s property rights. They understand how emotionally attached families can be to land that has been passed down for several generations. But they also say that Mississippi has to be careful not to scare off potential industries by throwing up additional barriers to locating in this state.

“We really need everything going in our favor. We don’t need any disadvantages,” Hammons said.

The power of eminent domain — the right of the government to compel an unwilling seller to part with his property for a reasonable price — was established at this nation’s founding to allow for projects of “public use,” such as roads, schools and utilities. This limitation on personal property rights has historically been considered necessary in order to provide for the greater good of the citizenry.

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