Texas Agriculture April 15, 2016 : Page 11

Eminent domain hearing focuses on landowners By Julie Tomascik Associate Editor High stakes negotiations and low-ball offers occur too often dur-ing eminent domain proceedings in the Lone Star State. And the current law favors for-profit companies, giv-ing landowners few options in a fight for their property. But Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) is once again taking a stand for private property rights. “Landowners feel they’re not getting a fair shake and that their rights are being ignored,” TFB Pres-ident Russell Boening testified at a recent hearing of the Senate Com-mittee on State Affairs. To address the issue, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick charged the committee with studying property owner compensa-tion and the variance between a con-demning entity’s offer and the fair market value of the property. “We feel that one important com-ponent of ensuring fair and just compensation is to change the law so that landowners don’t have to finance their own legal fees when a condemnor tries to force them to sell at lower than fair market value,” Boening said. It’s a deck stacked against them, despite reforms made in previous years. Under the current law, landown-ers must pay attorney fees out of pocket, never allowing them to truly be made whole. Low-ball early offers from some condemning entities— pipeline companies, electric utilities, public agencies and others—often discourage landowners from appeal-ing because of those legal fees. “Condemning entities know in ad-vance what they can get away with, and a single landowner is no match for their experts,” he said. But in a state with a booming pop-ulation, roads and other infrastruc-tures are needed. The disputed prac-tice of eminent domain is used when the government or a private entity seizes land for the good of the public. “We view eminent domain as a nec-essary evil. Eminent domain should always be used as a last resort,” Boe-ning said. “We need to provide better balance and not allow condemning entities to take advantage in an un-equal bargaining process.” Stronger checks and balances are needed to address this. But Boening, and other property rights advocates, feel the principal theme of eminent domain should be fairness. “We think requiring condemnors to pay the costs and fees incurred by landowners in instances of low-ball offers would provide better balance,” he said. That’s a provision Florida, along with a few other states, has institut-ed. But critics argue the fee require-ment would lead to a flood of litiga-tion, stalling projects and driving up costs. “We’ve talked to our friends in Florida who passed their attorney fees law in 1995, and they said that they did not see a ‘flood of litiga-tion,’” Boening said. “What they told us they did see was a pristine ef-fect on condemning entities who are now much more careful condemning property, as they must consider what is fair before offering compensation.” That’s what landowners want—a fair offer and just compensation for private property they’ll never get back. Deer hunting regulation changes approved The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted changes for deer hunting in the 2016-2017 sea-son. The new regulations include ex-panding white-tailed deer hunting in 14 counties across the western Panhandle and creating new deer hunting opportunities in East Texas. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the changes include: • Elimination of the Antlerless and Spike-buck Control Permit due to lack of demand; • Define “unbranched antlered deer” to clarify what constitutes a le-gal buck across seasons and to alle-viate confusion among hunters and replace the “Special Late Antlerless and Spike-buck Season” with a “Spe-cial Late Season” to accommodate the inclusion of “unbranched ant-lered deer” in the bag limit; • Allow the take of antlerless deer without a permit on certain U.S. Forest Service Lands during youth-only seasons; • Clarify that white-tailed ant-lerless deer harvest during the ar-chery-only season does not require a permit and harvest of antlerless deer during youth seasons is re-stricted to persons 16 years of age and younger including on properties issued Level 1 Managed Lands Deer (MLD) Permits; • Implement both a general and special archery-only season for white-tailed deer in Andrews, Bai-ley, Castro, Cochran, Gaines, Hale, Hockley, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, Parmer, Terry and Yoakum coun-ties, with a bag limit of three deer (no more than one buck and no more than two antlerless), which is identi-cal to adjoining/nearby counties that currently have a season; • Implement both a general and special archery-only season for white-tailed deer in Winkler County, with a bag limit of three deer (no more than one buck and no more than two antlerless, with the take of antlerless deer restricted to the archery-only season or properties issued MLDP antlerless tags). The new season is identical to adjoining/ nearby counties that currently have a season; • Establish four “doe days” (time periods in when antlerless deer may be taken without a permit in parts of the state where antlerless harvest regula-tions are conservative) in Bell (east of I-35), Burle-son, Ellis, Falls, Freestone, Kaufman, Limestone, Mi-lam, Navarro and William-son (east of I-35) counties; • Increase the number of doe days to 16 in Ander-son, Brazos, Camp, Gregg, Grimes, Henderson, La-mar, Leon, Madison, Mor-ris, Red River, Robertson and Upshur counties; and implement a muzzleload-er-only late season in An-derson, Bell (east of I-35), Brazos, Burleson, Comal (east of I-35), Delta, Ellis, Fannin, Falls, Franklin, Freestone, Grimes, Hays (east of I-35), Hen-derson, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, Leon, Limestone, Madison, Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Milam, Navarro, Rains, Red River, Robertson, Smith, Titus, Travis (east of I-35), Van Zandt, Williamson (east of I-35) and Wood counties. A PRIL 15, 2016 11

Eminent Domain Hearing Focuses on Landowners

Julie Tomascik

High stakes negotiations and low-ball offers occur too often during eminent domain proceedings in the Lone Star State. And the current law favors for-profit companies, giving landowners few options in a fight for their property.

But Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) is once again taking a stand for private property rights.

“Landowners feel they’re not getting a fair shake and that their rights are being ignored,” TFB President Russell Boening testified at a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on State Affairs.

To address the issue, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick charged the committee with studying property owner compensation and the variance between a condemning entity’s offer and the fair market value of the property.

“We feel that one important component of ensuring fair and just compensation is to change the law so that landowners don’t have to finance their own legal fees when a condemnor tries to force them to sell at lower than fair market value,” Boening said.

It’s a deck stacked against them, despite reforms made in previous years.

Under the current law, landowners must pay attorney fees out of pocket, never allowing them to truly be made whole. Low-ball early offers from some condemning entities— pipeline companies, electric utilities, public agencies and others—often discourage landowners from appealing because of those legal fees.

“Condemning entities know in advance what they can get away with, and a single landowner is no match for their experts,” he said.

But in a state with a booming population, roads and other infrastructures are needed. The disputed practice of eminent domain is used when the government or a private entity seizes land for the good of the public.

“We view eminent domain as a necessary evil. Eminent domain should always be used as a last resort,” Boening said. “We need to provide better balance and not allow condemning entities to take advantage in an unequal bargaining process.”

Stronger checks and balances are needed to address this.

But Boening, and other property rights advocates, feel the principal theme of eminent domain should be fairness.

“We think requiring condemnors to pay the costs and fees incurred by landowners in instances of low-ball offers would provide better balance,” he said.

That’s a provision Florida, along with a few other states, has instituted. But critics argue the fee requirement would lead to a flood of litigation, stalling projects and driving up costs.

“We’ve talked to our friends in Florida who passed their attorney fees law in 1995, and they said that they did not see a ‘flood of litigation,’” Boening said. “What they told us they did see was a pristine effect on condemning entities who are now much more careful condemning property, as they must consider what is fair before offering compensation.”

That’s what landowners want—a fair offer and just compensation for private property they’ll never get back.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Eminent+Domain+Hearing+Focuses+on+Landowners/2454657/297767/article.html.

Deer Hunting Regulation Changes Approved

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted changes for deer hunting in the 2016-2017 season. The new regulations include expanding white-tailed deer hunting in 14 counties across the western Panhandle and creating new deer hunting opportunities in East Texas.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the changes include:

• Elimination of the Antlerless and Spike-buck Control Permit due to lack of demand;

• Define “unbranched antlered deer” to clarify what constitutes a legal buck across seasons and to alleviate confusion among hunters and replace the “Special Late Antlerless and Spike-buck Season” with a “Special Late Season” to accommodate the inclusion of “unbranched antlered deer” in the bag limit;

• Allow the take of antlerless deer without a permit on certain U.S. Forest Service Lands during youth-only seasons;

• Clarify that white-tailed antlerless deer harvest during the archery-only season does not require a permit and harvest of antlerless deer during youth seasons is restricted to persons 16 years of age and younger including on properties issued Level 1 Managed Lands Deer (MLD) Permits;

• Implement both a general and special archery-only season for white-tailed deer in Andrews, Bailey, Castro, Cochran, Gaines, Hale, Hockley, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, Parmer, Terry and Yoakum counties, with a bag limit of three deer (no more than one buck and no more than two antlerless), which is identical to adjoining/nearby counties that currently have a season;

• Implement both a general and special archery-only season for white-tailed deer in Winkler County, with a bag limit of three deer (no more than one buck and no more than two antlerless, with the take of antlerless deer restricted to the archery-only season or properties issued MLDP antlerless tags). The new season is identical to adjoining/ nearby counties that currently have a season;

• Establish four “doe days” (time periods in when antlerless deer may be taken without a permit in parts of the state where antlerless harvest regulations are conservative) in Bell (east of I-35), Burleson, Ellis, Falls, Freestone, Kaufman, Limestone, Milam, Navarro and Williamson (east of I-35) counties;

• Increase the number of doe days to 16 in Anderson, Brazos, Camp, Gregg, Grimes, Henderson, Lamar, Leon, Madison, Morris, Red River, Robertson and Upshur counties; and implement a muzzleloader-only late season in Anderson, Bell (east of I-35), Brazos, Burleson, Comal (east of I-35), Delta, Ellis, Fannin, Falls, Franklin, Freestone, Grimes, Hays (east of I-35), Henderson, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, Leon, Limestone, Madison, Milam, Navarro, Rains, Red River, Robertson, Smith, Titus, Travis (east of I-35), Van Zandt, Williamson (east of I-35) and Wood counties.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Deer+Hunting+Regulation+Changes+Approved/2454659/297767/article.html.

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