Monday, June 15, 2009

Special session should include eminent domain reform

Governor Perry has confirmed a need for a special session of the Texas Legislature to address unfinished business. There are five agencies that were not reauthorized and will expire if the legislature does not take action, including the Texas Department of Insurance and the Texas Department of Transportation.

While you could probably count on one hand the people who really want to see the legislature back in session, even among our representatives and senators, this is welcomed news for millions of Texans who are gravely concerned about the rights of property owners.

With a special session, the governor chooses what is on the “call” or agenda for the designated 30-day period. With the dangerous erosion of private property owners’ rights over the years, reforming our eminent domain laws must be added to the vital to-do list.

There was progress during the legislative session with the passage of HJR 14, a constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot this November. It will provide much-needed protection to ensure when government exercises condemnation power, it’s for a clear public purpose. This is a necessary bill, which was signed by the governor today, and I commend Governor Perry for his efforts in bringing the needs of private property owners' rights to the forefront. HJR 14 is critical, but greater steps are necessary to protect landowners.

The good news is most of the hard work to correct these deficiencies has already been done. Senate Bill 18, authored by Senator Craig Estes, had already passed the full Senate and a House committee, and was set for a vote on the Major State Calendar in the House when the clock ran out. This proposal had strong bi-partisan support in both chambers and was strongly backed by many trade organizations throughout the state.

Action by our state officials to pass this bill and protect our state’s property owners is essential. I have officially written Governor Perry a letter to ask him to add eminent domain reform to the call.

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