In the governor's view, it's a battle for an essential tool in successful economic development projects like Toyota and Nissan. The other side believes private property rights should supersede the government's interest in a project in which the government forces one private person or entity to sell its land so that it can be transferred to another, such as a manufacturer.
One of the most impressive demonstrations of Haley Barbour's political persuasiveness came in 2009 when he prevented an override of his veto of an eminent domain bill in the state Senate.
The bill would have prohibited forcing the sale of private property for the use of other private interests, as opposed to the government keeping it for projects like roads or schools. It had passed the Senate without a dissenting vote, and yet Barbour was able to convince 22 of 52 senators - including 11 Democrats - to change their position. That was enough to deny supporters the two-thirds majority required to override a veto.
Obviously, Barbour felt strongly about the need for eminent domain in economic development projects. But the Mississippi Farm Bureau - the chief proponent of the bill - felt just as strongly about its position, and it later secured enough voter signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Enter the MDA's Speed, with Barbour's implicit blessing. The Jackson businessman seeks to force Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to keep the initiative off the ballot. Hosemann says it's on unless the state Supreme Court tells him otherwise. A hearing is scheduled July 25.
Speed's lawsuit is based on the legal argument that the initiative amends the state's Bill of Rights, which the state Constitution prohibits. Clearly, though, it's policy than concerns him.
Eminent domain - or the prospect of it - has been an important tool in multiple economic development projects in Mississippi, including Toyota. Mississippi hasn't seen significant abuses of the process that some states have.
Does that mean those projects couldn't have happened without it? Most economic developers involved in big projects would say so.
The court case is likely to be argued on fairly narrow legal grounds, but if the state Supreme Court decides the initiative will stay on the ballot, voters will have to determine the issue on its policy merits. If that happens, voters will need to think long and hard before taking an important tool out of the hands of the people trying to secure jobs for a state that badly needs them.