December 1 , 2006
Legislature off and running300 bills filed...
By Warren Mayberry
Associate Legislative Director
As promised, and reported in previous Notes From Austin, the Legislature is off and running. Nov.13 was the first day members could pre-file legislation. At press time, more than 300 bills were filed. Eminent domain and appraisal caps lead the pack in terms of numbers of legislative captions.
A pair of bills were filed to place more limitations on eminent domain. These bills attempt to strengthen language on this subject in the Texas Constitution. Rep. Frank Corte of San Antonio introduced a bill to limit condemned property being transferred to third parties by requiring either the State of Texas or the public at large to be in possession of the property. Corte's bill requires a higher level of proof by the condemning entitythat the use of the property is truly for public use and necessary. His bill requires condemning authorities to pay not only adequate, but "just" compensation for condemned property.
In a similar vein, Rep. Burt Solomons of Carrollton has introduced legislation that would amend the Texas Constitution to require condemning authorities to pay not only adequate, but just compensation for condemned property. His bill would also require the property to be used and owned by the public, public agency or public utility. Rep. Solomons' bill would not permit land to be condemned if the ownership or possession would be transferred to another person for private use. These are just the first of many bills that will be filed concerning eminent domain this session. The Farm Bureau staff will work to pass legislation that best protects the interest of our members and agrees with our policy.
Not to be outdone is the issue of appraisals. As of press time, more than a dozen bills were filed relating to some facet of the current appraisal system in Texas. Many of the bills deal with the issue of appraisal caps. Some offer a reduction in the current rate of 10 percent. Others are more middle of the road. State Rep. Debbie Riddle of Harris County offers an option which allows a local election in a county to set a limit of less than 10 percent, but not less than 3 percent, on the average annual increase in the appraised value of residence homesteads. Several of the measures allow for a local option election to set the appraisal rate by county residents.
Mandatory sale price disclosure is another issue which has received much debate and several pieces of legislation. Some proponents would argue that mandatory disclosure would keep appraisers honest and allow for more truth in taxation.
Gov. Perry appointed a "blue-ribbon" panel to address the complexities of the system. The panel held hearings across the state to gain public input and solutions to the growing inequities within the current system. A report is expected prior to the start of session.
The Austin legislative staff encourages you to be vigilant in expressing your ideas and positions on the aforementioned issues. It is in important that members of the Legislature hear from constituents in these few short days prior to session. Please contact the Austin staff for further information regarding any agricultural issues you have.