Vote of Northeast Mississippi senators on Gov. Haley Barbour’s veto of eminent domain bill.
For overriding governor — Nickey Browning, D-Pontotoc; Gary Jackson, R-Kilmichael; Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo; Eric Powell, D-Corinth; Bill Stone, D-Ashland; J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont.
Against overriding veto — Hob Bryan, D-Amory; Jack Gordon, D-Okolona; Gray Tollison, D-Oxford; Bennie Turner, D-West Point.
JACKSON – Senate Democrats provided the votes to uphold Gov. Haley Barbour’s veto of legislation that would prevent private land from being taken for use by another private entity.
It takes a two-thirds majority to override the governor. Supporters of the legislation garnered a 28-22 majority, but needed 34 votes to override Barbour.
Barbour, in his sixth year in office, still has never had a veto overridden. At one point, it appeared on this issue he would. Earlier this week, he was overridden by a 101-19 margin in the House.
The proposal originally passed the Senate last month, 51-0. But on Thursday, 22 of those 51 members – 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans – changed their minds.
The primary reason they gave is that they feared the legislation would deter large economic development projects from locating in the state.
Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said he changed his mind because “if there is a holdout landowner (a large project) simply will not happen.”
Sen. Alice Harden, D-Jackson, said Barbour “had wined and dined” some members of the Senate to get their votes. “I don’t know what they have been promised.”
Sen. Johnnie Walls, D-Greenville, said he had not been promised anything and had only met with the governor and heard his concerns.
In the last couple of days, Barbour met nonstop with Senate members. With a majority of Republican senators opposing him on the issue, he needed the Democrats who often vote against him to avoid being overridden for the first time.
But the issue is far from dead. David Waide of West Point, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, watched the vote from the Senate gallery along with other supporters of the legislation and said his group probably would file an initiative on the issue. Under the initiative process, people can bypass the Legislature and place issues on the ballot to be considered if they obtain the required number of signatures.
“Based on our experience, we believe it will be easy to get the signatures on this issue” to put it on the ballot, Waide said.
While Waide said his group was prepared to bypass the Legislature and place eminent domain on the ballot, the issue is not dead in the legislative process. After upholding the governor’s veto, the Senate sent another bill to conference where the goal is to negotiate on a new eminent domain bill that would meet the concerns of Barbour.
After the vote, Barbour said “I commend and thank the senators who put job creation first, and look forward to working with the House and Senate to craft a bill that will strengthen protections for private property without crushing our economic development efforts.”
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, D-Brookhaven, said the claim that the vetoed bill would have hurt economic development is not true. She cited several Southern states that had passed tough eminent domain laws in recent years, including Alabama.
“Alabama is kicking our rear ends in economic development and they have the law we are patterning our bill after,” she said.
When asked if the House would consider a new eminent domain bill, Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said, “I don’t know…We have done our work on eminent domain, but our minds continue to be open.”
Bobby Harrison/Daily Journal