Coalition of property rights advocates applaud surge of eminent domain legislation
AUSTIN—The Texans for Property Rights Coalition applauds the filing of HB 2684 aimed at eminent domain reform. Authored by State Representative DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne), the legislation will help level the playing field for property owners who confront corporations and government entities with deep pockets and skilled legal teams.
Reps. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Kyle Kacal (R-Bryan) and Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) will also carry legislation offering significant improvements to current eminent domain laws.
“I know what it's like to face the threat of an eminent domain taking and understand the burden it places on landowners, which is why I am fighting to ensure property owners are in the best possible position when faced with the taking of their property,” Burns said. “In Texas, private property rights are sacred, and I am proud to file HB 2684 to preserve that right while providing for the growth of our great state.”
“This surge of new legislation is a tremendous step toward fixing a faulty process that places landowners at a huge disadvantage when navigating the condemnation process,” added Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association President Richard Thorpe. “We are grateful to have strong allies like Rep. Burns who are committed to defending the rights of private landowners and preserving our future.”
A growing state with a strong appetite for new development has put a target on Texas private property, leaving landowners searching for a fair offer and process in eminent domain cases.
"This legislation reflects reasonable changes that many states already have in law," Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening said. “Texas should be a leader in strong and fair private property rights that allow for continued growth and economic prosperity.”
The new legislation will provide for the reimbursement of landowner expenses if they are sued by a condemnor and are ultimately awarded significantly more than the final offer. It will also spell out the use and restriction details required within a condemnor’s “bona fide offer” to ensure the entity will properly use and maintain the property.
These bills provide common sense reforms in several areas of concern for landowners. Additional details on the coalition’s initiatives can be found on TexansForPropertyRights.com.
“As a landowner with deep agricultural roots, Representative DeWayne Burns understands the property rights challenges faced by rural Texans. Texas Wildlife Association is thankful for his leadership on pursuing meaningful eminent domain reform,” Texas Wildlife Association CEO David Yeates said. “Fair treatment of landowners and respect for property rights are long overdue, and this legislation will advance both.”
Approximately 95 percent of state land is privately owned, putting the needs of the public in direct conflict with the rights of Texas property owners. Fair compensation, the groups noted, should be the only option because private property owners find it difficult to face the financial burden of litigation when entities sue them.
A slew of other legislation addressing the broken eminent domain process is also being introduced.
"Individual private property rights are intrinsically tied to our Texas values and our legislation is an effort to ensure that we as a state still believe that a private property owner has a right to be treated fairly,” said Kacal, who filed HB 2694 to improve the bona fide offer received by landowners. “In Texas, we need to ensure that there is a sincere level of protection for landowners and establish a minimum standard that allows Texans to know what to expect when an entity begins an effort to take their land.”
"As lawmakers, we have to ensure that private property owners are given a fair shot when they negotiate a deal for the use their land," said Ashby, who is also introducing legislation. "In a state that takes great pride in defending private property rights, we must take action toward leveling the playing field between a landowner and the entity using eminent domain authority."
“As a small business owner and real estate broker in Texas, I know firsthand that property rights are one of the most sacred liberties that Texans enjoy,” Holland said. “HB 2556, my component of eminent domain reform, will empower property owners and commission condemning authorities to extend fair market value offers to deserving landowners, additionally saving our state from frivolous administrative appeals costs by cutting out the tiresome back-and-forth of the broken process."
Led by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas Wildlife Association, the Texans for Property Rights Coalition consists of 25 organizations committed to the preservation of Texas’ private property rights. The coalition was organized to pursue eminent domain reform during the 2017 Texas legislative session, and will continue to work with legislators to secure the passage of these bills and others proposed in the house and senate that address the need for reform.
The coalition members include: Texas Farm Bureau, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Association of REALTORS®, South Texas’ Property Rights Association, Texas Forestry Association, Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, Texas Poultry Federation, Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, Texas Grain Sorghum Association, Plains Cotton Growers Inc., Texas Land and Mineral Owners Association, Texas Association of Dairymen, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Corn Producers Association of Texas, Riverside and Landowners Protection Coalition, Texas Grain and Feed Association, Texas Citrus Mutual, Texas Hill Country Heritage Association, Texas Coalition for Conservation, Texas Wheat Producers Association, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Ranchers and Landowners Association of Texas, Texas Nursery and Landscape Association and the Tax Exchange Institute.