By Cassandra Stone | Dec 2, 2016

AUSTIN – More than a dozen Texas-based organizations have banded together to form the Texans for Property Rights coalition, a grassroots initiative to inspire and execute reform with eminent domain laws next spring.

Existing laws, passed in 2009 and 2011, respectively, currently prohibit the taking of private property for economic development, and yet eminent domain remains a primary source of concern for many Texas landowners. Private property rights have been compromised in the past, as various entities hold a financial advantage to individual landowners.

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Currently, 95 percent of the land in Texas is privately owned. As the state population continues to increase, so does the need for infrastructure and the utilization of natural resources. Despite eminent domain laws, there are times when private property is seized by entities for the “greater good.” Although the needs of the public directly conflict with private property rights in cases such as these, the Texans for Property Rights coalition believes these transactions are resulting in negative outcomes for property owners.

“For example, we’ve spoken with one family that was offered $90,000 for property rights. Upon further investigation after the sale, a special commissioner determined they should have been offered $750,000. It also cost them $20,000 in legal fees,” Leslie Kinsel, director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, told the Southeast Texas Record. “Smaller landowners may not have the financial strength the make that kind of choice and will take a lower offer in order to avoid legal expenses incurred with fighting for an unknown outcome.”

The growing coalition is currently comprised of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Forestry Association, South Texans’ Property Rights Association, Texas Poultry Association, Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, Independent Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Grain Sorghum Association, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., Corn Producers Association of Texas, Riverside & Landowners Protection Coalition, Texas Land & Mineral Owners Association, Texas Association of Dairymen and Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

“A big point of contention for farmers and ranchers is that these companies that purchase the land also need to take care of the land,” Kinsel said. “For example, a pipeline itself isn’t a great inconvenience but initial and ongoing construction presents lots of issues. Operation and maintenance need to be further outlined and agreed upon. Basically, the law passed in 2011 outlined things better than before but it’s not as good as it can be.”

Kinsel urges Texas property owners to educate themselves about their rights by visiting the Texans for Property Rights website and to contact your local representatives to ask them to support further eminent domain legislation.

“I strongly encourage any person who owns land to get educated and familiarize themselves about their rights,” she said. “Sometimes that education can come at high cost with lawyers and fees but you can visit our website and learn more about your rights, what we’re trying to accomplish, and how you can get involved for free.”

Under the proposed legislation, if the property taker has an insufficient offer and loses in court, they would be required to compensate the landowner for legal costs in addition to the court award. Currently, 22 states adhere to this type of protection for landowners.

Legislation will be introduced in the next legislative session to address this situation. Eminent domain meetings are already under way throughout Texas.

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Organizations in this Story

Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Texas Farm Bureau

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