Friday, March 19, 2010

"The will to deliver eminent domain reform to Texas property laws has not been diminished."

Property rights battle dead ahead


By Mike Barnett, Editor
Texas Farm Bureau
Copyright 2010

Okay, Texas Farm Bureau’s AGFUND-endorsed candidate for governor lost the Republican primary. It was a huge disappointment for those who worked so hard to see Kay Bailey Hutchison heading our state government in Austin.

But as Texas Agriculture publisher Gene Hall said, the sun did come up on Wednesday morning. The birds sang. And life goes on. As does Texas Farm Bureau’s efforts to achieve true eminent domain reform.

Sen. Hutchison recognized the archaic state of Texas property laws. She promised to right the private property wrongs which have plagued the Lone Star State. She had promised to give true eminent domain reform priority in her administration. Although she was unsuccessful in a hard fought battle, Texas Farm Bureau’s fervor for private property rights justice has not cooled.

Nobody knows who will be elected in November. If the political pundits can be believed, it’s going to be a real horse race.

What I do know is although it has been bashed and battered over the last four years, the will to deliver eminent domain reform to Texas property laws has not been diminished. Farm Bureau leaders overachieved in their efforts to get Proposition 11 into the Texas constitution last year, and their efforts were rewarded as it passed with the highest percentage of any of the proposals on the ballot.

But Proposition 11, which prohibits the government from acquiring land for non-public use, was only the first step. True reform will happen only when additional protections—including offers to landowners that represent fair market value, compensation to landowners for lost access to their property, and the right of landowners to repurchase land not used for condemning purposes—are added to state law.

Texas Farm Bureau members need to work to finish reform efforts with the same intensity they tackled Proposition 11. We must lay the groundwork now to remind our state representatives and senators of the importance this issue holds for all Texans. New candidates for state government need to know where we stand.

When they go into session next January, state legislators must quickly affirm the language from last session’s SB 18, which unanimously passed the Senate but was tied up by the voter ID wrangling in the House as the session closed.

Any delay could be fatal to our efforts. If whoever is elected governor chooses to veto the reform bill, it would take every remaining day of the session to accomplish an override. There are many who are opposed to this effort to protect private property rights who will be seeking derailment at every opportunity. Those opportunities will abound with a legislative agenda crowded with Sunset bills, redistricting and dealing with an estimated $20 billion budget shortfall.

With the disappointments of the last two sessions, it would seem the deck is stacked against Farm Bureau in our eminent domain efforts. Not so. We are a grassroots organization of true believers. The fire to protect our rights as property owners burns deep within. We’ve come very close to achieving our goals two times.

Texans need eminent domain reform. Farm Bureau members are not timid in standing up for what they believe. We will work hard for success. I know we are up to the task. The third time will be the charm.

© 2010 Texas Farm Bureau:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE