Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Masters of their Domain?

The Lege's crusade against eminent domain has hit a serious snag, and may be dead, at least for this month's special session. Lawmakers' hasty effort to restrict local government's power under eminent domain to grab private property for development seems to have melted down amid--what else?--bickering between the House and Senate.

The House had agreed to go with the Senate's statutory approach rather than a constitutional amendment. The House passed Senate Bill 62 a few days ago, but not before stacking on a series of its own amendments. The Senate didn't take kindly to those and asked for a rush-job conference committee in the final two days of the special session.

Earlier this afternoon, the House voted 91-40 to deny the Senate's request for conference and hand the House version back to the Upper Chamber--the legislative equivalent of a "take it or leave it" demand. Rep. Frank Corte (R-San Antonio) argued that going to a conference committee would be letting the Senate "run over" the House. There were rumors that a conference committee planned to dump the House amendments in favor of the Senate version.

The House vote today likely dooms the bill. Of course, if nothing gets done before Wednesday night's deadline, eminent domain legislation will likely come back if Gov. Rick Perry calls a second consecutive special session on school finance.