Monday, December 08, 2008

Cash Cow on the Tracks

Check on land grabs

December 08, 2008

Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2008

The power of eminent domain is crucial to progress. Without it, highways wouldn’t get built. Airports would be the size of postage stamps. Cows, literally, would block the railroad.

That said, when the government takes property the land owner deserves rightful compensation.

The Texas Legislation had such fairness in mind last session when it overwhelmingly passed a bill to change how the state compensates land owners in these cases.

Then Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it, and it was too late to override.

Lawmakers need to preclude that option by passing legislation immediately this session, thereby giving themselves time to override a Perry veto if necessary.

Current Texas law doesn’t even require entities to make a “good faith offer” before condemnation proceedings.

Perry said the bill in question would be too expensive to afford to property owners these protections.

Too expensive? Not apparently to Florida and California, two states with growth patterns comparable to Texas. They have the kinds of compensation requirements Texas lawmakers approved last session.

One issue the law needs to address is the loss of access to transportation built into certain behemoth projects.

Perry is concerned about the future of his pet highway project, the Trans-Texas Corridor. It rightfully has been under the gun. So is his toll-roads-or-no-roads emphasis at the Texas Department of Transportation.

Hopefully, lawmakers will legislate some common sense on those fronts as well.

As for eminent domain: We need a process that keeps people out of court, fairly awards land owners and lets important infrastructure proceed with dispatch.

It’s a shame that in the last Legislature the governor was the cow standing on the tracks.

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