Under a process called eminent domain, state and local governments, as well as some utility providers, can seize private property for public use. If a condemner wants to seize your land to build a road or even a school, current laws allow them to do it after making you a disingenuous, low-ball offer. That’s just not fair, and it’s not Texan. The law must be changed to require condemning agencies to offer a fair market price for anyone’s property they think is needed for a public good.
Recently, there have been attempts to improve the law on behalf of property owners. During this current state legislative session, several eminent domain bills were filed. Senate Bill 18 by Senator Craig Estes from Wichita Falls requires a condemning entity to negotiate in good faith and make a bona fide offer. The bill has passed the Senate and is now in front of the House of Representatives.
The clock is ticking on the current legislative session, but there’s still a way for Texans to make their voices heard. Recently, the Texas Farm Bureau launched a special section on its Web site (http://www.txfb.org/) called, “Reforming Eminent Domain: Fair is Fair,” to educate Texans about protecting their private property rights. It’s an interactive tool that provides property owners a means of contacting their elected officials to tell them exactly what action they want them to take in reforming eminent domain laws.
Some 97 percent of property in Texas is privately owned, which means all Texans have a stake in protecting our private property rights. Please visit the “Reforming Eminent Domain: Fair is Fair” section on the Texas Farm Bureau Web site, and let your elected officials know Texans who are forced to sacrifice their property ought to be treated fairly.