Mississippi Development Authority interim executive director Leland Speed has sued Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, in an attempt to keep the eminent domain petition off November’s ballot.
If you’ll recall, the petition seeks to prevent the taking of private land for private development. It keeps in place the state’s authority to seize private land for public-use projects, like streets or bridges.
Nearly 120,000 people signed petitions to get the issue on the ballot. Hosemann certified the results last year.
The Mississippi Development Authority and Gov. Haley Barbour were adamantly against the notion of eliminating the state’s authority to use eminent domain for private economic development. Barbour and Gray Swoope, Speed’s successor at MDA, warned that projects like Toyota wouldn’t be in Mississippi if the law were changed.
Following a failure to change the law in the Legislature, a petition drive led by the Mississipi Farm Bureau Federation commenced, and the issue was set for the November ballot, until Thursday afternoon.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 25 in Hinds County Circuit Court.
Pamela Weaver, spokesperson for Hosemann, just told Magnolia Marketplace that he would not comment beyond a statement, in which he said he intended to follow state law and place the initiative on the ballot, unless otherwise ordered by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
We’ve left a message on the cell phone of an MDA spokesperson, which wasn’t immediately returned.
For what it’s worth, Magnolia Marketplace several months ago polled the major contenders in the governor’s race — Phil Bryant, Dave Dennis, Bill Luckett, Johnny Dupree and Hudson Holliday — and they were of one mind: Eminent domain should be employed only for projects of direct public use, and that doesn’t include private economic development. Bryant, Dennis and Holliday each signed the petition to get the initiative on the ballot.
If and when we hear something from the MDA, we’ll post it. Rest assured, though: This is going to be a fight.
UPDATE: MDA spokesperson Melissa Medley just returned our call. She said that agency would have no comment on Speed’s lawsuit since he filed it as an individual, and not in his official capacity as interim executive director of the MDA.
We just got off the phone with Speed’s assistant, who said he was out of town and wouldn’t return until Monday around lunchtime. We’ll try to catch up with him then.