If Dave Dennis and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant are going to butt heads over an issue in their bids to be the Republican nominee for governor in 2011, they’ll have to find something other than the use of eminent domain for private development.
Both are adamantly against it.
“I have long tried to find common ground between Farm Bureau and the Governor on this issue,” Bryant said in a press release. “There must be a balance between growing jobs in our state while not trampling the rights of our citizens. I am for property rights and congratulate Farm Bureau on what appears to be a successful petition drive.”
Bryant was referring to Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation handing over to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann Thursday morning 119,000 signatures of registered voters who oppose the use of eminent domain for private development. Mick Bullock, spokesman for Bryant, said the lieutenant governor was one of the folks who signed Farm Bureau’s petition.
Most likely, the issue will appear on the 2011 ballot. Bryant also alluded to Gov. Haley Barbour’s vehement opposition to the restriction. During the 2009 legislative session, Barbour vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the government’s power to employ eminent domain for projects that did not serve a direct public use, like roads or bridges. His veto was narrowly sustained in the Senate, after being overwhelmingly overridden in the House.
Barbour argued then that stripping government of the power to use eminent domain for private economic development would be deal-killers for major projects like Toyota and Nissan.
Dennis, a Gulfport businessman, disagrees.
“Plainly and simply, if a development is that good and that attractive and that resourceful, then there should be appropriate dollars associated (with it),” he said. “If somebody thinks there’s that good a return coming in, they should be willing to pay market or even premium-of-market value. If for some reason people still would not sell, then you work around them.”
Dennis told Magnolia Marketplace that he has had two pieces of property over the years seized by eminent domain, both times to clear the way for road-widening projects.
“That eminent domain I’m very comfortable with,” he said. “Eminent domain should not be used to take private property for private development. If you’ve got a piece of property that has stayed in your family, it’s hard for me to swallow somebody coming in and taking it.”