A decade-long struggle to strengthen Texas private property rights ended successfully this week as Senate Bill 18, the eminent domain reform bill, became law. Governor Rick Perry signed the bill at the state capitol on Monday, May 23.
“Congratulations, Texas. Eminent domain has been reformed!” said Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke.
The reform of Texas eminent domain laws has been the top priority of Texas Farm Bureau for three legislative sessions, Dierschke said. In 2007, the bill passed overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate before being vetoed. In 2009, it passed overwhelmingly in the Senate before being held up in a legislative logjam.
“This legislation is a solution to the unfair treatment many property owners have been subjected to in the condemnation process,” Dierschke said. “The take-it-or-leave-it attitude displayed by some condemning authorities will be replaced by good faith and cooperation.
“Equally important, with passage of Senate Bill 18, farmers and ranchers have extended the respect they have for the land and private property rights to the laws of the State of Texas.”
With the signature of the governor, this important private property rights legislation assures that:
- Private property can be acquired only for a public purpose, not for private benefit.
- Condemning entities must make a good faith offer before the beginning of the condemnation process.
- Property owners will have a stronger voice in determining who decides what damages are owed if condemnation proceedings occur.
- Property owners will be compensated for damages from a loss of direct access to their property and receive relocation assistance when forced from their property.
- Property owners—under certain conditions—will have the right to repurchase their property at the original value after 10 years.
“All Texans will benefit from this new law which ensures a fair and open process for landowners when eminent domain is exercised for the public good,” Dierschke said. “There are so many people to thank: Gov. Rick Perry, who designated eminent domain as an emergency item and signed the bill; Sen. Craig Estes, the author; Rep. Charlie Geren, who shepherded it through the House; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, an ardent supporter of reform; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus and House Land and Resource Management Committee Chair Rene Oliveira for guiding this important bill through the legislative process; and all the legislators who kept eminent domain reform a legislative priority for three sessions and the new lawmakers who came on board.”