I have not published a newsletter for several weeks, due to a hectic schedule. With some time today to put my thoughts on paper, I will produce a series of newsletters over the next few days to catch up on what has been happening in your Capitol in Des Moines. In this edition of Freedom Watch – Torchlight.Over the last few days, the issue I have heard about most in messages left on my phone, in texts and in emails, is stopping the use of eminent domain for the CO2 pipeline projects. The common question is, “what more can we do to get the Senate to pass HF565?” Good question. HF565 was overwhelmingly passed by the House, and creates strong protections against the use of eminent domain for the CO2 pipeline private economic development projects. Unfortunately, it was not advanced by the Senate before the final funnel deadline. The Iowa Republican Platform states, “We oppose federal or state government taking private property away from the owner for the use of another private party. Eminent domain should be used only for public use.” This fundamental principle in my party’s platform recognizes the increasing abuse of government power through the seizure of private property for the economic gain of others, and stands boldly in support of George Washington’s perspective on the linkage between private property and liberty, when he said, “Freedom and Property Rights are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.” Why then, did protections not pass in the Senate? This is as black and white as any issue I have seen debated in my nine years of service in the House. Right and wrong in this debate is crystal clear, and a recent poll shows overwhelming opposition to the use of eminent domain for the CO2 pipelines, because Iowans get that the issues at stake go beyond economic arguments and dire industry declarations. Some folks are using smoke and mirrors and predictions of gloom to confuse this debate. Perhaps it is the mission orientation that comes from 20 years in the Marine Corps that causes me to “cut to the chase” on issues, to look at what is fundamental and at the heart of the matter. This is pretty simple. It is not about whether the pipeline should be built or not, or the questionable science upon which this is based; it is not about whether ethanol lives or dies based on the proposed pipelines; or whether it makes sense to bury a marketable product under the ground. Nope, this boils down to one question: Should eminent domain be used to strip away the private property of my fellow citizens so that that it can be given to another private party for economic development? Easy answer: Hell No. Remember the words of Washington. Freedom and property rights are inseparable. Freedom ceases to exist without the right of private property. Regardless of how much these proposed projects might benefit ethanol, regardless of how much they might benefit agriculture, regardless of how much money the investors involved stand to make off of taxpayer-funded credits, the heart of the matter remains the same: Eminent domain should only be used for public use, and folks, this is not a public use project. The pipelines should therefore be built using voluntary easements, and not by allowing private investors to use government power to seize the property of others. As to why every Republican is not on board with protecting private property rights in this case, there are a number of factors. Some believe these projects are essential for agriculture in Iowa and therefore they believe this justifies the use of eminent domain; some believe the pipelines fit the “public use” standard; some believe there is already a process in place and the Legislature should not pass additional requirements; and some have other motivations for opposing these protections. I respect these viewpoints, but I respectfully do not agree, and I have rebutted these arguments at length in past newsletters and in my remarks during floor debate. My position remains rooted in what is at the heart of the matter and captured in my party’s platform: “We oppose federal or state government taking private property away from the owner for the use of another private party. Eminent domain should be used only for public use.” I will continue to do all I can and use the tools at my disposal to stand up against the use of eminent domain for private economic development projects. Stripping away the private property rights of an American citizen for another’s economic gain destroys a fundamental birthright we all share as Americans, a right Washington pointed out is inextricably linked to our future as a free people. No amount of economic gain is worth surrendering this birthright, a fundamental liberty we fought a Revolutionary War to secure. As to what more can be done to secure the protections for private property in HF565, we must use our voices, as I am doing now, to stand up against this assault on the private property rights of our fellow citizens. If the right of private property is not secure for all of us, it is secure for none of us. A magic wand to show us the way would certainly make things easier, but none of us has one. What we do have as Americans and Iowans is the torch of liberty to light our way. It has served us pretty well since 1776.
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