Eminent domain works already

Published 12:05 am Friday, July 29, 2011

Eminent domain has received attention recently, with an effort to put the issue on the ballot this fall.

I oppose the ballot initiative because it attempts to change our state’s Bill of Rights, which according to the State Constitution, cannot be amended through the initiative process. But I have other grave concerns, as well.

Some people wrongly assume eminent domain allows government to seize private citizens’ land for no good reason. In fact, Mississippi has always used eminent domain sparingly and with great care. It has been utilized for economic development only a handful of times in our history and then, only for major economic initiatives benefitting the greater good and creating numerous jobs. For the Toyota site, for instance, eminent domain was used to acquire clear title on a small parcel of land that had had no clear ownership since 1927.

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Current law does not need to be amended. Eminent domain in Mississippi is a fair, balanced legal process that respects private property rights and ensures individuals are heard.

No fewer than five public entities, including both houses of the Legislature and the Governor, must approve each case where eminent domain is proposed for economic development.

Eminent domain still would be used to acquire land for roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure projects. Only economic development would be affected by the initiative, and Mississippi would be prevented from competing with other states to attract the jobs we so desperately need.

Without eminent domain, Mississippi would never have competed successfully for Nissan, Toyota or the Stennis Space Center.

We cannot afford to close the door on future economic development projects that would create thousands of jobs.

Leland Speed

Jackson resident and director of the

Mississippi Development Authority