Ag leaders praise Perry stance on eminent domain
By LPR Staff
Governor Rick Perry”s Tuesday decision to designate eminent domain reform as an “emergency item” for the 82nd Texas Legislature drew applause from leading state agriculture organizations, including the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Ranchers Association.
The push for reform started i
n 2005 when the Supreme Court passed the infamous “Kelo” decision, which allowed governments to seize property under eminent domain for economic development purposes. The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by owners of property in New London, Ct., after city officials condemned and seized their property with the intention of selling it to a developer. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held the City of New London”s actions to be allowable, sparking nationwide debate about possible limitations to eminent domain.
Texas State Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) introduced SB 18 during the 81st Legislature in 2009. If passed, the bill would have put specific restrictions on eminent domain, including preventing municipalities or government entities from seizing property from one private owner with the intention of transferring it to another, except under very specific circumstances.
SB18 did not make it out of committee, and was left unpassed when the Legislature recessed on June 1, 2009.
Later that year, Texas voters overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 11, a constitutional amendment that would place limits on the powers of eminent domain. The amendment, which passed with the approval of 81 percent of Texas voters on Nov. 3, 2009, offered a broad-stroke approach to limiting governmental power to seize property.
If it passes during the 82nd Legislature, SB 18 will fine-tune those restrictions.
The “emergency item” designation allows the Legislature to begin consideration of the issue within the first 30 days of the legislative session, which opened Tuesday.
“We are most grateful for this action and appreciate the governor”s comments about… this important issue,” Kenneth Dierschke, the president of the Texas Farm Bureau, said in a written release on Tuesday afternoon. “We pledge the full support of the Texas Farm Bureau in accomplishing this task.”
The proposed legislation, in addition to accomplishing other tasks, will require the following:
– A public and record vote to initiate eminent domain proceedings;
– All entities with eminent domain authority to register with the State Comptroller by December 2012;
– Condemning entities to make a bona fide offer in writing and if not, to pay the property owner”s expenses and attorney”s fees;
– Impairment of access to the remaining property to be identified and taken into consideration when determining compensation; and
– Land to be sold back at the price it was condemned if it is not used with in 10 years.
These requirements combine to offer Texans some of the strongest private property rights in the nation, supporters say.
Dave Scott, of Richmond, is a rancher and the president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). He, too, applauded Perry”s emergency designation and pledged the support of his organization to pass eminent domain reform.
“Eminent domain reform is badly needed, and today we are one step closer to that becoming a reality,” Scott said Tuesday. “Property owners across Texas have been working on eminent domain laws for years. Legislation must get signed into law this year, before more property owners are negatively impacted.”
Perry”s “emergency item” designation may help that to happen.
In statements given separately to the Texas Senate and the Texas House on Tuesday, Perry called for not only eminent domain reform, but sanctuary cities to be listed as “emergency items” for the 82nd Legislature. Those issues, as well as the embattled state budget, seem to top Perry”s priority list this year.