Further tightening of the government's eminent domain powers could come if the Texas Senate supports some recently approved House legislation.
Two bills by Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, gained final approval from the House on Thursday, and now move to the Senate.
One piece of legislation, the "Landowner's Bill of Rights," is joint-authored by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, and co-authored by Rep. Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville.
"There's a mood in this legislative body to protect property owners," says Hopson. "I know it's an important issue for East Texas."
The Landowner's Bill of Rights would ensure that those whose property is under the threat of being seized receive a written statement of their rights and options.
"It gives landowners a way and an ability to fight municipalities and the state if they come to take their land," Hopson says. "It describes, in very simple terms, the rights a landowner has."
The Legislature addressed the government's powers to take property for a public purpose with a set of laws passed in 2005.
Another of Callegari's new bills would address the seizing of property in older neighborhoods, by tightening the rules for a city attempting to seize "blighted areas" for development.
"State law provides that certain governmental (bodies) may exercise the right of eminent domain to cure the problems of urban slum and blight," the bill analysis for CSHB 3057 says. "The statutory definitions for slum and blighted areas are arguably inappropriately broad and imprecise, and conducive to subjective interpretation where any material defect on a property may render it eligible for condemnation."
The bill would redefine "slum" and "blight" and would require that property meet certain conditions to be considered eligible for condemnation on grounds of blight.
Like other bills regarding eminent domain, this comes as a reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said cities can use eminent domain for private development as a way to generate tax revenues.
Tyler TX Morning Telegraph: http://www.tylerpaper.com