Legislature takes advantage of
Special Session to pass protection
from Eminent Domain
By Billy Howe
Public School Finance and Education Reform did not survive the Summer Special Sessions, but the legislature did pass legislation to protect private property from condemnation for economic development purposes. The legislature has sent SB 7 by Senator Kyle Janek to the desk of Governor Perry. The governor is expected to sign the legislation.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Kelo case left it to each individual state to define what is a “public use” when condemning private property. In SB 7, the legislature specifically prohibits condemning private property for the following purposes:
1) conferring a private benefit to a private party;
2) public use when it is merely a pretext to confer a private benefit to a private party; and
3) economic development, except if it is a project to eliminate a slum or blighted area.
The legislation also addressed condemning certain property for the Trans-Texas Corridor. Representatives Lois Kolkhorst and Glenn Hegar added language to SB 7 on the House Floor that prohibits TXDOT from condemning property for gas stations and convenience stores, unless it is part of the development plan adopted by the local county commissioners court. This language is similar to the restrictions passed during the regular session on the Trans-Texas Corridor.
SB 7 also included a provision for an interim study on the condemnation process in Texas as a whole, including how to compensate property owners. A major goal of this study will be to develop language for a constitutional amendment that can be passed during the next regular session in 2007.
Texas Farm Bureau strongly supported passage of SB 7, and we will be working to pass a constitutional amendment to place similar protections in the Texas Constitution.