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National Grange News
State Grange President Calls Texas a Leader in Protecting Property Rights

By Laura Auerbach (National Grange 2/1/10)

  FEBRUARY 1, 2010 --

National Grange President Ed Luttrell and Texas State Grange President Jack Smithers spoke today on national communications policy and individual property rights during a press conference held at the Davy Crockett Grange in Elmendorf.

Leading off, National President Luttrell described a recent Grange letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski expressing deep concerns that the Commission's policy focus is shifting from developing a National Broadband Plan encouraging universal deployment and adoption of broadband services to underserved rural, farming, and tribal communities, to a policy focused on regulating broadband network management practices. Luttrell stressed that the Grange believes deployment of broadband across the country and especially in rural America should be the Federal Government's number one communications priority. He stated that the Commission should not be burdening "technology that it has little first hand knowledge using" with unnecessary management regulations.

Luttrell explained how, over its long history, the Grange has been a consistent champion of bringing the benefits of universal access to communications to all Americans. The 140 year old rural advocacy organization was instrumental in the Federal Government's establishment of Rural Free Delivery mail, promoted universal rural telephone service and fought for commercial licensing of radio and television stations rather than direct government operation. "As new communications technologies evolve, the Grange will continue to represent rural America's right to equal access," Luttrell concluded.

Luttrell of Sandy, Oregon was elected in November 2009 to his second two-year term as National Grange President. He is a past president of the Oregon State Grange and has served on the boards of the Oregon Lands Coalition, Grange Mutual Insurance Company, and Timberland States Insurance Company.

"Texans value their land and their right to own it and live on it. That's why this state was quick to pass legislation protecting individual property rights after the Supreme Court's poorly reasoned decision in Connecticut," declared Texas State Grange President Jack Smithers. In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut could take Suzette Kelo's home as part of a redevelopment plan, because the economic growth would benefit the entire community. Kelo's home was razed, the development plan failed with a faltering economy and the land sits vacant today. In response, Texas voters passed Proposition 11 by a margin of 81% to 19%. Proposition 11 specifically prohibits the taking of private property to give to another private entity for the purpose of economic development or enhanced tax revenue and requires a two-thirds vote of the Texas Legislature to approve taking by the State or the general public.

"Local and state officials do not have the wisdom nor the right to take private property based on their own economic forecasts, which may be influenced by developers. We have protected the Suzette Kelos of Texas and we will see to it that those who do have to give up their land for the public good are properly compensated," Smithers assured the audience.

After twelve years as President of the Davy Crockett Grange, Smithers was elected state president in July 2008. He is a twenty year U.S. Army veteran. He and his wife Margaret have a son and a daughter and four grand children.

Luttrell concluded the press conference by relating the National Grange battle to protect its name and trademarks from corporations. The name "Grange" has many positive connotations thanks to what the Grange has done over the last 140 years. Companies large and small want to use the name to their own benefit and the Grange has had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years protecting the name. Now the Grange is seeking legislation similar to that protecting the Red Cross, Olympics, Smokey the Bear and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. "Such legislation would cease the diversion of National Grange funds that would be otherwise used in supporting community service activities at the local level," Luttrell explained.

Founded in 1867, the Grange is the nation's oldest rural advocacy organization. With over 200,000 members, it is active in Washington, DC as well as in the capitols of 40 states across the country. Under the Grange system, the setting of legislative priorities for the coming year starts at the local level, moves up to the state level and is finalized at the annual national convention held every November. The top national priorities are published in the Grange's annual Blueprint for Rural America.



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