How Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sabotaged eminent domain reform

Since the Supreme Court’s notorious 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which allowed that municipality to seize private property on behalf of the Pfizer Corporation, 43 states have passed laws protecting property rights against Kelo-style eminent domain abuse. Mississippi is not one of those states.

But that nearly changed in March 2009 when the Mississippi legislature voted overwhelmingly in support of a proposed law which would have guaranteed that “the right of eminent domain shall not be exercised for the purpose of taking or damaging privately owned real property for private development or for a private purpose; or for enhancement of tax revenue; or for transfer to a person, nongovernmental entity, public-private partnership, corporation or other business entity.”

In addition to enjoying strong bipartisan support in the statehouse, this piece of long-overdue reform was backed by groups as politically diverse as Americans for Tax Reform, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and the Mississippi Forestry Association.

But none of that mattered to Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who promptly vetoed the bill, claiming it would cripple his ability to lure large corporations into the state. As Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, admitted in his veto statement, had he not promised Toyota that he would use eminent domain to secure a piece of contested land for its Blue Springs facility, “Toyota would have broken off negotiations with us and chosen one of the other states competing with us for the project.”

Reason Online
5/12/9