TEXANS AGAINST HSR COORDINATES WITH
TEXAS A&M STUDENT SENATE TO OPPOSE DALLAS HOUSTON HSR
Jewett, Texas – In a nearly unanimous roll call, the Texas A&M University Student Senate, speaking on behalf of the student body, sent a clear message Wednesday night condemning the use of eminent domain by a private company, specifically the proposed Dallas Houston High-Speed Rail project. Texas A&M Senate Bill 68-36, entitled the Eminent Domain Opposition Act, was authored by Wayne Beckermann, Vice President of Municipal Affairs and public administration master’s student in the Bush School of Government and Public Service, and sponsored by Rules and Regulations Committee Chair Carlos Sonka, a senior petroleum engineer major.
Although Texas Central Partners has promoted Texas A&M University and Sam Houston State University student support for their project, Texas A&M student senators were only contacted late last year to garner official support. Chair Sonka reached out to Texans Against High-Speed Rail recently to get information to support their proposed act, and TAHSR responded with information, as well as coordinating speakers for their meeting, including State Senator Charles Schwertner, State Representatives Trent Ashby and John Wray, County Judges Ben Leman (Grimes) and Trey Duhon (Waller) and TAHSR President Kyle Workman, all of whom represent areas that would be negatively impacted by the proposed HSR.
As part of the justification for their project, Texas Central has identified Texas A&M University students as a key customer base and long touted them as supporters. However, university student senators recognized the potential for private property rights infringement and took swift action, sending a clear message to the company and investors. Chair Sonka said following the successful passage of his bill, “I am proud our body was able to see through the well-funded special interests and professional lobbyists that tried to influence us, and clarify – overwhelmingly – that Texas A&M students are against the use of eminent domain and will not support the rail’s taking of private property from unwilling sellers.” The student senate ultimately voted 60 – 2 for the act showing that every facet of Texas A&M, through the various caucuses, stands united in opposition to the general use of eminent domain by private companies and, specifically, the expected use of eminent domain by the Dallas Houston HSR.
Vice President Beckermann supported the opposition bill by responding to Texas Central’s vague and inconsistent information about their project. “We’re being asked to support ‘It depends.’ And that’s just not going to work. I’m not okay with this body, this institution, supporting something that still ‘depends.’ We need private companies to approach us before using us, we need to develop hard stances on things like this, and that’s exactly what this bill is about.”
In last night’s senate meeting, Rep. John Wray said, “What I want to ask you to do is to vote in favor of this bill, because if you do that you’re voting in favor of property rights. If you do that you’re voting in favor of fair market value. If you do that you’re voting in favor of keeping the phrase ‘willing’ in front of the phrase ‘seller.’ And you’re voting to uphold the free market.”
The landslide 60 votes to support the bill indicate when given available data and additional background from Texas Central as well as those officials opposed to the project, it is hard to support this private company use of eminent domain. “I argue that there certainly is not a public benefit that is consistent with the threshold of public benefit that has been long established in the State of Texas,” Judge Leman said in the meeting held on the Texas A&M campus in College Station. “I consider it to be a private project for a private purpose.”
Texans Against High-Speed Rail applauds the members of the Texas A&M Student Senate taking a strong stance on private property rights in Texas and for being the voice of all Texas A&M students. Despite Texas Central claims, Texas A&M students are now added to the long list of those who do not support this HSR project.
Kyle Workman said, “Along with our state and local elected officials, TAHSR is proud to stand with the Texas A&M University Student Senate to oppose eminent domain by private companies. This is yet another clear message that Texans value their private property rights, and, as taxpayers, we remain concerned about inevitable taxpayer subsidies when this Japanese funded project fails to meet its financial obligations.”
Please visit www.TexansAgainstHSR.com for more information about Texans Against High-Speed Rail, Inc. and TAHSR Land Defense Fund.