Recently the Tennessean published my guest column below with a rebuttel written by Rep. Mike McDonald and the final word given by the Tennessean editorial staff.
I was very proud that the Tennessean agreed with me that the state should not use its power to legislate property rights away from individuals.
State Should Respect Property Rights
Buyer beware - children learn the phrase, adults experience its meaning, and attorneys are trained in its certainty.
Most learn from their mistakes and go on. However, the state's recent attempt to either buy its way out of a regretful deal or legislate its way out of the deal should raise citizen's interest.
The Governor’s administration may be commended for greatly increasing our state park land. However, after a recent acquisition, it was learned that the purchase price didn’t include certain rights, among them logging. Naturally, the timber company that owned the trees kept on harvesting. The environmentalist outcry caused the Governor to include $82 million dollars in last year’s budget to purchase said trees, et. el.
Now we find out another “regretful” deal neglected to purchase the mineral rights to the Cumberland Trails State Park. Not surprisingly, the rock harvesters that own the rocks continue to harvest them. Like most minors, they don’t earn very much. Some of them supplement their earnings with food stamps.
The mining activity is not pretty. As the harvesters work to fulfill the nations latest fad; “green” building materials, several environmental groups are upset by the disturbance of the land to obtain the rock. Thus far the harvesters have followed the law and regulations; stabilizing the land and complying with water pollution rules. But objectors want a state park to look natural and untouched. And who wouldn’t?
The harvesters offered to sell their mineral rights to the state for appraised value but the state refused choosing instead to file suit. When the judge sided with the harvesters, the state decided to legislate the embarrassment away by proposing a law so restrictive that the harvesters may just give up - effectively; an unconstitutional taking of private property. Tennessee’s citizens should be treated better than this.
Some believe that the end justifies the means. I ask, is it fair to purchase land without all of the rights, and at less than full market value, and then legislate the harvesters’ ability to exercise their property right away? If an end, no matter how strongly desired, is brought about by bad means are we not compelled to work for a better end brought about by acceptable means?
As children we learned that a deal is a deal, and to honor our agreements. As adults we learn the significance and sanctity of a contract. We are careful to agree on terms acceptable to both parties prior to a sale. We can’t change the past. The right thing now is to purchase the mineral rights for a fair value.
Prosperous is the nation that is able to utilize her rich natural resources, and wise is the nation that cares for the environment. However, if laws are made so restrictive that those resources cannot be gathered; if a nation cannot acquire her coal, her timber, her minerals, her oil and gas; then that nation and her people will suffer unnecessarily.