After hearing from more than 1,000 city and county officials from more than 170 counties, Texas Farm Bureau is finding an overwhelming support among local elected officials for the eminent domain reforms granted in HB 2006 in the 80th Texas Legislature. Despite overwhelming passage in the Legislature, Governor Rick Perry vetoed HB 2006.
While conceding that eminent domain exists to allow necessary public projects and improvements, results from a five-question survey issued by the state’s largest farm organization show more than 95 percent of the responding local officials statewide favor changes in the law that address the pillars of eminent domain reform: good faith negotiations with landowners, fairer treatment under the law for everyone involved, and a tightening of definitions under which taking of property might occur.
“The results show that a number of local leaders across the state believe it is time for a change when it comes to our eminent domain laws,” said TFB President Kenneth Dierschke. “We had those reforms in place with HB 2006, and we intend to move ahead with a similar piece of legislation when lawmakers reconvene in Austin in 2009.”
Texas Farm Bureau launched the survey of elected officials earlier this year, in response to Perry’s veto of the bill following the last legislative session. HB 2006 carried 125-25 in the House and 31-0 in the Senate.
Perry still nixed the popular reform package, citing among many items in his veto explanation that a widespread outcry from local and county officials in “high growth areas” against eminent domain reform had ultimately sealed the fate of the legislation.
“We began this process with two primary goals in mind,” Dierschke explained. “First, we wanted to make eminent domain the local issue that it rightly is, and second, we wanted to bring the issue into the clear light of day.
“The results of our survey are painting a much different picture than the one Gov. Perry described when he opted to veto the eminent domain package we so strongly supported last summer,” Dierschke continued “We had some responses from high growth areas and many from the rural parts of the state. We are finding that there are many local elected officials who feel exactly the way we do about reforming eminent domain.”
In Haskell County—Gov. Perry’s home county—all 15 of the responding city council members, county commissioners and the county judge answered 100 percent in support of eminent domain reform.
“While we understand that not every community in every part of the state is represented in our survey results, we do believe the responses we have accumulated so far are reaffirming something we already knew—people are fed up with an eminent domain system that is out of control and they want to see a change,” Dierschke said.
Results of the statewide survey, including the specific questionnaire presented to local officials, as well as a county-by-county breakdown of the individual responses to those questions, is available for public view at http://www.txfb.org/EminentDomain.asp.