Texas survey indicates strong public support for eminent domain reform
Texas landowners enjoy widespread support on the question of eminent domain reform. A recent survey of general election voters indicates fairness, accountability and transparency are strongly favored by the public as the Texas Legislature considers eminent domain reform bills in Austin.
The survey was commissioned by Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) and conducted by the Eppstein Group of Fort Worth. Five questions were asked of 1,200 general election voters. Support for eminent domain fairness exceeded 80 percent in every category among both rural and urban voter respondents.
The government and hundreds of private entities may take land for the public good. There is, however, a broad consensus that this process is often unfair to property owners.
“We all accept that eminent domain is necessary sometimes,” TFB President Russell Boening said. “We do not oppose that. However, Texas has left fairness and just compensation far behind in the process.”
Eminent domain reform legislation has been introduced in both the Texas Senate and Texas House. Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, authored HB 991. Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, authored SB 421.
The legislation calls for transparency in eminent domain proceedings, including consequences for offering less than fair market value and damages to private property.
On the question of “lowball offers,” 89 percent of all respondents favor financial penalties for too low offers. Eighty percent favor “bad faith” financial penalties when offers are less than half of a property’s value.
“Eminent domain is not a normal business transaction,” Boening said. “The landowner does not have the option of walking away from the table.”
Ninety percent of Texas respondents support requiring private companies to give advance notice to landowners before eminent domain actions can proceed. Eighty-four percent support a standard landowner rights easement document before the taking can proceed. Eighty percent agree that landowners are at a financial disadvantage in an eminent domain proceeding.
Support in all categories was almost the same among Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s gratifying to know that Texans understand these concepts of basic fairness,” Boening said. “We do not oppose eminent domain, but the reforms now before the Legislature are reasonable solutions for a broken process.”
The full survey results can be viewed at www.texasfarmbureau.org/eminentdomain.