Measure that limits power to seize land may see vote

JACKSON – Mississippians apparently will have a third initiative to decide when they vote in the November 2011 statewide elections: a proposal to limit the use of eminent domain.
Farm Bureau officials said Wednesday they will submit to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann the required number of voter signatures to place on the ballot an initiative that would prevent the government from taking private land for the use of another private entity.
“We do have the signatures,” said Greg Gibson, a spokesman for Farm Bureau. “We will deliver them tomorrow” to Hosemann.
Hosemann’s office will be charged with counting to ensure that Farm Bureau has garnered the required number of signatures, which is slightly less than 90,000.
If it has, the eminent domain proposal will be placed on the ballot with two other proposals: one to require a state-issued identification to vote and another that defines a person “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof.”
The constitutionality of the personhood initiative currently is being challenged in court.
Also on the ballot will be candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and other statewide and county offices.
Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization that lobbies for and supports rural and ag-related issues. It boasts a membership of more than 209,000 Mississippi families.
Debate over using eminent domain to take land for the use of another private entity has intensified since 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it can be done unless prohibited by the state.
Farm Bureau President David Waide of West Point said 43 states have passed eminent domain restrictions similar to what he is proposing in his initiative.
The Mississippi Legislature in 2009 passed a bill restricting use of eminent domain, but Gov. Haley Barbour vetoed it, saying it could jeopardize major economic development projects in the state.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal