Regan Beck, associate legislative director of the Texas Farm Bureau, spoke to the Coupland Civic Organization at their October 26 meeting. He covered the issues of interest to farmers, ranchers, and other rural residents during the last session of the Legislature.
Regarding trying to protect property rights, he called it “all in all, a good session, but not a great session.” The TFB’s efforts were partially successful against eminent domain. Regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor, he said, “We want to take it off the books. We were so close at the end of the session in getting this [and other things that were in HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset bill], but it fell through.”
He noted that HB 300 would have repealed the Trans-Texas Corridor. It also included diminished access protection in eminent domain actions. Since HB 300 failed to pass, the Legislature had to extend the existence of TxDOT during the special session and will have to deal with TxDOT’s Sunset process during the next regular session.
The good news—TFB is pleased with $30 million in aid that passed for rural Texans, including funds for boll weevil eradication, feral hog control, and repair for earthen flood control dams. [Ed Komandosky, secretary/treasurer of Brushy Creek Water Control and Improvement District, spoke to the last meeting of the Coupland Civic Organization about the funding and repair work on the dams in our area.]
Beck calls SB 18 “a great bill that included good faith negotiation to treat the landowner as fairly as possible, by negotiating in good faith upfront before the property is condemned.” SB 18 also included more disclosures for the property owner and a ten-year buy-back provision, whereby if the condemning entity did not use the property within ten years, the owner could buy it back for the same price he was paid for it. Unfortunately, SB 18 was one of the bills left unpassed when time ran out at the end of the session.
Much of the problems that property owners have with condemning entities are not even with governments, but with others who have been given the power of condemnation, such as pipeline companies. There was a provision that the comptroller would be notified of all entities that have power to condemn. Then, if an entity does not sign up with comptroller, it loses its condemnation power. Unfortunately, this was not passed.
Beck said, “HJR 14 was passed and is Proposition 11 on the ballot. We still need to do more on eminent domain, but Prop 11 helps.” When asked if the TFB was prepared to start early next session to get more eminent domain protections, he said yes. He noted that this last session, it took too long to get more protections through the Senate--too long to get some Senators on board--and then the legislation failed in the last-minute gridlock. In this coming session, Beck hopes that the Senators already will be prepared to support protections, so that legislation can move through faster.