Two new developments in property rights debate at statehouse

The wait is over. Secretary of State Chet Culver has sent the “official” copy of the property rights bill Vilsack vetoed to the House Clerk. Here’s the letter announcing his decision:

June 23, 2006

The Honorable Christopher Rants
Speaker of the House
State Capitol
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Dear Speaker Rants,

I write in response to your letter of June 21 requesting the return to the Chief Clerk of the House of the original version of House File 2351 (HF 2351), a bill relating to the use of eminent domain authority in Iowa. Like many Iowans, I am deeply concerned about the potential abuse of eminent domain authority, particularly the taking of private property for the private benefit of others.  I believe strongly in protecting the rights of private property owners.  Politics should be set aside and the General Assembly should take quick action in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that the rights of property owners are protected while allowing for sensible job creation efforts that benefit all Iowans.

As you are aware, HF 2351 was submitted to the Governor within three days of the sine die adjournment of the regular legislative session, and was vetoed on June 2, 2006.

Since the Governor’s action the original bill has resided in my office, pursuant to Section 9.1 of the Iowa Code, which directs that the Secretary of State shall “have charge of and keep all the Acts and resolutions of the territorial legislature and of the general assembly of the state…” as well as, in particular, Article III, Section 16 of the Iowa Constitution, the pertinent part of which
reads as follows:

"A bill submitted to the Governor for his approval during the last three days of a session of the general assembly, shall be deposited by him in the office of the Secretary of State, within thirty days after the adjournment, with his approval, if approved by him, and with his objections, if he disapproves thereof."

Pursuant to your request, and in accordance with my office’s constitutional role as the repository of this legislation, I am directing my office to release the original bill to the Chief Clerk
of the House.

Furthermore, please also note that it is not within the official role and duty of the Secretary of State to make any formal judgment on the legal authority of the House and Senate to consider an override of this or any bill, or of the ability of the General Assembly to do so absent actual physical custody of a bill – and, as such, the temporary return of this bill to your custody does not imply any such judgment.


Chester J. Culver
Secretary of State

Cc: Margaret Thompson, Clerk of the House



The original version of House File 2351 is attached hereto.  This bill was deposited in the  Office of the Secretary of State, the repository designated by the Iowa Constitution, and is accompanied by a veto message from the Governor. The bill was the subject of a written request by the Speaker of the House on or about June 21, 2006.  Therein the Speaker requested the Chief Clerk of the House be provided temporary physical custody of the bill.

I understand the Secretary of State is temporarily releasing this bill to the Office of the Chief Clerk of the House without waiving the responsibility to maintain charge of the bill during its physical absence from the Office of the Secretary of State.

I agree that I will return the bill and bill jacket to the Secretary of State’s office upon final action and that at all times the bill will remain within the physical custody of the Chief Clerk or other
appropriate official of the General Assembly.

The undersigned hereby acknowledges receipt of HF 2351 and indicates agreement to the terms and conditions set forth above:

Margaret Thompson, Clerk of the House                         

MEANWHILE, House Speaker Christopher Rants quickly sent out this letter:


With over 80 members of the House returning petitions requesting a special session, we will be calling the House back with the intention of overturning the Governor’s veto on the issue of eminent domain.

I ask that you please take a look at the dates below and email back to (one of his staff members) with your availability on these dates.  If she does not hear back from you, we will take that to mean that you are available on any of those dates.

July 12
July 18
August 1

Please respond…by COB on Monday, June 26.  Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.


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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.