By Kelley Shannon - AP Political Writer
AUSTIN Texas (AP) -- Texas voters overwhelmingly chose Tuesday to strengthen their private property rights as enshrined in the state constitution - one of eleven constitutional amendments approved in the poll.
With 98 percent of the votes counted some 81 percent of voters supported Proposition 11 to limit eminent domain powers. Prop 11 backed by the Texas Farm Bureau Gov. Rick Perry and Perrys Republican rival Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was rejected by 19 percent.
The proposition will state in the constitution that governments in Texas are prevented from seizing private property and giving it to private developers to boost the tax base.
By approving Proposition 11 the voters of Texas have sent a clear message: Dont mess with private property rights said Perry who went to the Alamo earlier this year to emphasize his support for the constitutional amendment.
Hutchison called the results a first step toward changing eminent domain laws.
Texans have sent a clear message that private property rights are sacred. I look forward to working with the Legislature to further strengthen the respect for private property as the next governor of Texas Hutchison said.
Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke called the passage of Proposition 11 an important but incomplete victory and said the eminent domain laws still favored the condemner of property.
The private property and anti-toll road organization Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom said the proposed amendment left open loopholes and did not address issues such as diminished access to remaining land after an eminent domain seizure.
Terri Hall founder and director of TURF said Texans clearly wanted eminent domain reform but that Prop 11 did not get the job done.
The Texas Legislature needs to continue the push for further reforms and to prevent abuses she said.
An amendment to guarantee public access to beaches also sailed through in Tuesdays poll taking 77 percent of the vote.
Texans have always supported open beaches but now they have given public access to beaches an extra level of protection by putting that right into the state constitution said Ken Kramer Sierra Club state director.
Voters also backed an amendment that aims to create a national research university fund out of $500 million in existing state money. Currently Texas has three top-level research universities: the University of Texas at Austin; Texas A&M University and Rice University. It lags behind other big states like California and New York proponents said. Seven other Texas universities are vying to achieve so-called Tier One status.
Tonights passage of Proposition 4 sends this important message: Texans understand that more nationally recognized research universities will help retain Texas-grown talent recruit top researchers who will generate billions of dollars in economic growth and create more high paying permanent jobs said former Lt. Governor Bill Hobby co-chair of Texans for Tier One.
All the ballot propositions had to win two-thirds passage in the Legislature to go before voters.