Sunday, November 06, 2005

Missing in Action: Eminent Domain Amendment for Texans

There they go again: More stealth amendments, courtesy of Sen. Todd Staples and Rep. Mike Krusee, Transportation Committee Chairmen

Back in June, the Supreme Court confirmed that a Texan's land is just a politician's penstroke away from some well-connected investment banker's portfolio.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, an El Paso native, laid it out:

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. "

Around that time, many Texans were still learning, much to their dismay, that Governor Perry and the legislature had spent the last five years laying groundwork for just that sort of thing-- a state sanctioned money grubbing land "grab-and-lease" scheme--sponsored by special interest donors.

"Under the Radar"
It all began in the Fall of 2001, when Texas taxpayers and landowners unwittingly opened the door to a multinational cadre of pork-loving zealots--courtesy of Gov Rick Perry and friends.

The architects of the strike knew the odds of pulling it off were good. The Texas Legislature has presented more than 600 amendments to the state Constitution over the last 130 years and suckers like us have approved a whopping 432 of them.

Back in 2001, Propositions 2 and 15 were stealth amendments, lovingly crafted by special interest groups. We didn't know these amendments were set up for Rick Perry's $184 billion TTC corporate welfare trough, or that they would give the Guv's appointees at TxDOT an open- ended line of credit, backed by our tax dollars. But the beneficiaries of this perpetual pork machine did know--and they had already crunched the numbers:

Two Texas Constitutional amendments: $500,000

TxDOT with multi-billion dollar line of credit and token legislative oversight: Priceless.

Pandora's Ballot Box
When 67% of us took the bait, Gov. Rick Perry pulled the switch. After Prop 2 and Prop 15 were approved, he said we gave him the green light for something called the "Trans-Texas Corridor Plan,"a bloated 4,000 mile network of quarter-mile-wide, privatized, money-skimming toll roads with "ancillary facilities" leased by state, and packaged as a 'public-private partnership,'-- a consortia that would have made Benito Mussolini proud. Most folks didn't take Perry seriously, but he showed them all.

He gave his appointees at the Texas Transportation Commision thier marching orders, and in four months they were “open for business.” It wasn't long before the secret bids and campaign dollars came rolling in. As Texans snoozed through another election, Perry ascended to his throne in 2002.

Proposition 15 was the gift that kept on giving. In 2003, it allowed Speaker Tom Craddick's porkers in the House Transportation Committee to launch a juggernaut: a transportation abomination called House Bill 3588. The bill fundamentally changed Texas law, giving Perry's appointees at TxDOT the powers of eminent domain for economic development-- and it explicitly mentioned the Trans-Texas Corridor plan.

The bill also allowed for the tolling of freeways and spawned a protective layer of unnaccountable Regional Mobility Boards--lower ranking political appointees and cronies, to ram the project through. Although the Texas House and Senate unanimously approved House Bill 3588, most claimed they never actually read it.

While they're at it, maybe they could explain why they even bother to show up in Austin every two years--or why we should consider sending them back.

Good thing the people at CorridorWatch studied it, and they published it online. You can view the scheme HERE.

House Bill 3588 is a scary read, if you believe that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution actually means something. Scarier still if you are naive enough to think that your friendly Texas pols -- those stalwart champions of property rights who wear their faith and patriotism on their sleeves, wouldn't sell you down the road for a travel junket, a fat contract for a campaign donor, or some future lobbying gig with a foreign corporation.

The "clean up" bill that was supposed to fix this problem in 2005 isn't much better, because it is essentially the same fragrant sack of fertilizer, repackaged and promoted by the friendly folks who cooked it up in the first place--then spun it as something else. You can thank Senator Todd Staples and, again, Rep. Mike Krusee for that one. Kudos to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick as well. (Thanks for "winning back the confidence of Texas citizens," fellas.)

Which brings us back to the Supreme court ruling, Kelo vs New London.

When word got back from Washington D.C. that our property really was up for grabs, the legislature was about to start the first of two doomed special sessions for school finance reform. During these unsalvageable train wrecks, they had the opportunity to respond to the Kelo Case with a strong constitutional amendment --one that would protect Texans from the kind of eminent domain abuse built into their TTC plan.

Instead, they knitted together a weak eminent domain bill that was full of loopholes and exemptions for their pet projects.

In the processs, they turned a blind eye to enormous state-sponsored "land-grab-and-lease" boondoggles, like the Trans-Texas Corridor. Then, dragging their feet, they promised to "study" the eminent domain issue later.

Funny how they didn't take the time to do that sort of "studying" when they voted for the TTC in the first place.

Here are just two of the six stealth propositions waiting for you this Tuesday:

PROPO$ITION 1 preludes a juicy $20+ billion enticement for private railroads to freeload on Gov. Rick Perry's TTC Porkbarrel Express Limited. Projections show it will cost another $2 billion to repay the bonds and fees. We'll all be paying the freight on this one, thank you very much.

Brother Staples, can you spare a dime?

PROPO$ITION 9 seeks to triple the shelf life of Regional Mobility Authorities from two to six years. RMAs are a new invasive species of unelected unaccountable dysfunctionaries putting down roots in the projected pathways of the Trans-Texas Corridor--under the protective wing of thier big brother bureaucrats at TxDOT.

Just what TxDOT needs --longer terms and less accountability, courtesy of Mike Krusee.

Put them on notice

The lawmakers who are pitching this adulterated tripe may not live in your district, but you can still send them a message and do your part to derail Perry's Pork-Barrel Express by voting NO on Props 1 and 9.


    A complete timeline of news articles and web posts related to the Trans-Texas Corridor (1999-Present) can be viewed by clicking links located in the right side bar of this page under the heading TTC NEWS WATCH.
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