March 25, 2009
JACKSON -- The Senate will try to override Gov. Haley Barbour''s veto of the eminent domain bill, but it appears it won''t be as easy as it was in the House.
"It''s going to be close," said Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, the Senate committee chairman pushing the bill to restrict governments'' power to force people to give up their land for industrial uses.
The House of Representatives voted 101-19 Tuesday to override Barbour -- with 33 of the Republican governor''s GOP allies deserting him on the issue. They enabled the Democratic-controlled House to get the 67 percent supermajority required to pass the vetoed bill.
However, the Republican-led Senate''s GOP members more loyal to the governor could be enough to sustain his veto and kill the bill -- despite it having passed earlier this month 51-0.
The Senate has 25 Republicans. Barbour is trying to persuade them that House Bill 803 would drive job-creating industries away and create a "catastrophic disadvantage" for Mississippi''s efforts to provide them land.
"I think the governor has been working diligently on the Senate. We''ll have to wait and see if it''s enough," said Sen. Bennie Turner, D-West Point.
Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, is one legislator who''s changed his mind and now opposes the bill after talking with Barbour.
The governor says the state must be able to assure large manufacturers like Nissan, Toyota and Paccar that the state can find them land -- even if it requires government forcing people to sell their property to accommodate the industries.
"You''re in it for job creation," Brown said.
However, Sen. Gary Jackson, of Kilmichael, is one Republican who''s going to vote to override the governor on the eminent domain bill. "I will vote to protect property rights any day of the week," Jackson said.
The veto override attempt is expected Thursday, Fillingane said.
The bill says government''s eminent domain power can''t be used to buy private property to enhance tax revenues by turning it over to commercial developers. The government could still take private land for public use, such as building roads or installing utility lines.
If the bill becomes law over Barbour''s objection, it would be the first veto ever overridden since he took the governor''s office five years ago.
The new law, he said, "would do more damage to job creation and economic development than any government action since Mississippi rightfully began trying to balance agriculture with industry in 1935."
"If a legislator wants to hurt job creation in Mississippi during this recession and forever after, a vote to override this veto is the best way to achieve that terrible outcome," he wrote in his veto message to the Legislature.
However, legislators in support of the bill said people should not be vulnerable to government taking their land and giving it to an industry.
"Just because the king wants a poor man''s garden is no right to take another person''s land," House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said in a statement he issued after the veto override.
"This was a victory for the common folks who frequently are overlooked by special interests," he said.
Brown noted Barbour does want the Legislature to enact more safeguards so that government doesn''t only take land away to transfer to a private developer. "I don''t want anybody to just be able to eminent domain," Brown said.
Barbour is recommending a new bill that would put into law requirements that property can''t be forced away for private industrial uses unless approved by local governments and the state Legislature along with the governor and the Mississippi Development Authority.
"This would resolve the fatal flaw of House Bill 803," Barbour said.
To override the governor''s veto of House Bill 803 that would restrict the use of eminent domain:
To read bills, follow their progress and see how legislators voted, go to the Mississippi Legislature''s Web site: billstatus.ls.state.ms.us. The Web site also has live video of House and Senate floor sessions.