Sunday, November 16, 2008

Giving Special Interests The Power To Take Your Property

In the past, I have written about the possibility of the expansion of the Trans-Texas Corridor into Oklahoma and described why it is important that we not allow foreign-owned companies to control Oklahoma roads.

I have always felt that as the size of government gets bigger and more expansive, opportunities open up for those who have the ability to manipulate the government to use that power to empower their own special interest(s). Nowhere is this marriage of big business and big government more frightening than when a business is able to acquire power normally reserved to the government, such as the right of eminent domain. I believe an important part of our job as lawmakers is to prevent these types of abuses from occurring.

The example of the foreign-owned Texas toll road is one example of this type of abuse. However, this is not the only example of Texas allowing privately owned interests to operate much like the government in order to make a profit.

Over the past few years, a wealthy Texas businessman decided to incur the risk of investing in a product that he believes will be in great demand in the future. That product is water. The businessman formed a corporation known as Mesa Water and acquired water rights in a large aquifer in the Texas panhandle and tried to market this water to the nearby city of Amarillo.

However, Amarillo chose not to buy the water and Mesa apparently had a hard time finding a market for the water in the area close to where they owned the water rights. Not wanting to lose the investment, Mesa had to find a way to transport the millions of gallons of water from the Texas panhandle to the water-hungry Dallas metroplex. How would a privately-owned company acquire the power to deliver this much water over hundreds of miles?

Mesa hired one of Texas' most powerful lobbyists and went to work on Texas lawmakers. An amendment was sneaked through the Texas Legislature that allowed a water-supply district to transport water in a single corridor, or right-of-way. And then a second bill was passed which loosened the requirements for creating a water district, a governmental entity much like Oklahoma's rural water districts, with the power of eminent domain.

The bill loosened the requirements so much that it allowed just two people (both of whom were employees of the Texas businessman who started Mesa) to hold an election to form a new water district with governmental powers. With that two-person vote, Mesa was able to use the newly formed water district to afford them not just the ability to issue tax-free bonds for the construction of a massive pipeline, but the right and power of eminent domain to take control of the land along the 250 miles needed to build the pipeline.

This is one example of how a powerful special interest manipulated the legislative process to allow them to co-opt and use the power of the government to their advantage.

As your State Representative, I am dedicated to preventing similar abuses from occurring in Oklahoma.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, thank you Representative Murphey. I am so very pleased to hear that you don't entend to allow "....powerful special interest [to] manipulate the legislative process to allow them and use the power of the government to their advantage." I'm sure the 10's of 1000's of families living with autism in Oklahoma will be happy to know that you will be working to right the wrongs of last session and vote for Nick's Law. Big insurance together with House Republican leadership manipulated the legislative process and refused to hear Nick's Law.

Since you are "...dedicated to preventing similar abuses from occurring in Oklahoma", the autism community is looking forward to working with someone dedicated to preventing such travesties from happening this session.

Thank you again, Representative Murphey!

Robyne Rohde, Mommy to Austin and Nicholas (Nick's Law)