Top Ag Groups Applaud Texas Legislature Action on Eminent Domain: Texas Farmer-Stockman, 6/4/07

By J T Smith

Before the Texas Legislature adjourned its 80th Session at the end of May, lawmakers passed a significant reform in eminent domain, which is being praised by top agricultural groups. Texas' largest farm organization, the Texas Farm Bureau [TFB], applauded the Legislature for passage of a bill to fine-tune the state's eminent domain process. The Texas House concurred with Senate amendments to HB-2006, the eminent domain bill. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it.

Kenneth Dierschke, TFB president, San Angelo, called HB-2006 the most important property rights legislation in Texas in more than a decade. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Beverly Woolley of Houston, also had passed the Texas Senate on a 30-0 vote. The House, with her leadership, then concurred.

"Texas farmers and ranchers have been concerned for some time about the eminent domain process," Dierschke notes. "It's been far too easy to take property in this state, sometimes without even a good faith offer. Landowners can't match the deep pockets of the taking entities in legal proceedings."

Dierschke says HB-2006 will compensate landowners on what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller - "It's hard to argue with the fairness of that."

Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association [TSCRA] also was pleased.

"H.B. 2006 helps level the playing field for landowners who are condemned and ensures that they are justly compensated for the damage done on their property," says Jon Means, TSCRA president, and a Victoria cattle producer.

Dierschke says the legislation ensures property owners will be fairly compensated for the taking of their property by the thousands of entities that have power of eminent domain. The Farm Bureau leader says entities with such authority include state and municipal governments, utilities, university systems, some corporations, and various government groups. And with Texas' population growing rapidly, eminent domain proceedings are expected to increase, and Dierschke adds, "We cannot ask Texas property owners—rural and urban alike—to sacrifice their farms, ranches, businesses, and homes without fair compensation."

Means says the bill defines "public use" in a way aimed at preventing condemnation for economic development, the subject of great controversy after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London.

TSCRA also praised Senator Kyle Janek of Houston for guiding Senate passage.

Texas Farmer-Stockman: http://thefarmerstockman.com