Barbour promises veto of HB 803

Gov. Haley Barbour said on a conference call Thursday afternoon that he will veto House Bill 803, which eliminates the use of eminent domain for major economic development projects in the state.

The bill cleared the House 119-3. The Senate, by a vote of 51-0, passed it unanimously.

Speaking to a handful of Mississippi business leaders, Barbour said he would veto the bill Monday. He urged those on the call to contact their legislators and tell them to sustain his veto. For that to happen, Barbour would need 41 votes in the House and 18 in the Senate.

While HB 803 does eliminate the state’s power to take private land for economic development projects certified by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) to create at least 1,000 jobs, it leaves in tact the provision that allows local governments to seize private property for urban renewal by a majority vote of a city council.

The urban renewal issue drew a lot of attention a couple of years ago when Jackson State University attempted to seize land for development adjacent to its campus.

‘Legislators who supported HB 803 have said companies could ask for an exemption to the law if the need arises. Barbour does not subscribe to that theory.

“Companies will not talk to us about big-site development (if HB 803 becomes law),” Barbour said. “Because they will assume that with no right of eminent domain, the only way they could come here is to show their hand, put all their cards on the table face up, and then see if the Legislature will let them have eminent domain for their project. They don’t want to get embarrassed by the Legislature saying no. We compete with other states, and this will take us out of the hunt for these big projects.”

MS Business Journal
3/20/9