Texas Agriculture July 1, 2016 : Page 12

Eminent Domain Reform Needs Texans’ Voices

Julie Tomascik

A growing state with a strong appetite for new development has put a target on Texas private property, leaving landowners searching for a fair offer in eminent domain cases.

Those battles have played out in courtrooms for decades, and more will come.

That’s why Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) and other organizations, including Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Wildlife Association, are working toward eminent domain reform.

To do that, the organizations are collecting information on eminent domain takings through a survey.

“The questions are geared toward the issue of fair compensation,” TFB Associate Legislative Director Marissa Patton said. “We want Texas Farm Bureau members and other private property owners to share their experiences dealing with lowball offers, fighting for fair compensation and litigation costs. Or if they accepted initial offers because the entity offered fair market value, we want to hear about those experiences as well. We can use that information to help build a case for eminent domain reform.”

The Texas State Senate Affairs Committee, Patton noted, is working on an interim charge related to eminent domain: “Gather and review data on the compensation provided to private property owners for property purchased or taken by entities with eminent domain authority. Examine the variance, if any, between the offers and the fair market values of properties taken through eminent domain. Make recommendations to ensure property owners are fairly compensated.”

The legal process has improved over the years.

“We made progress in 2011 when SB 18 defined negotiating in good faith, setting out actions a taking entity must perform,” TFB President Russell Boening said. “But more protections are needed for property owners to be treated fairly in cases that affect their livelihood.”

Fair compensation, Boening noted, should be the only option because private property owners find it difficult to face the financial burden of litigation.

“It could be your land, your house or your private property rights at stake next year or 10 years from now,” Boening said. “Reform is needed to ensure fair compensation and prevent lowball offers.”

Visit http://bit.ly/EminentDomainSurvey to take the survey and share your experiences regarding eminent domain.

Additional tools may be used to collect more information prior to the 2017 legislative session.

Contact Patton at mpatton@txfb.org or 512-472-8288 with questions regarding the survey or eminent domain takings.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Eminent+Domain+Reform+Needs+Texans%E2%80%99+Voices/2522422/316898/article.html.

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