Gov. Rick Perry today ceremonially signed Senate Bill 18, which implements landmark eminent domain reforms to strengthen private property rights. The governor designated this legislation as an emergency item for the 2011 Legislative Session. He was joined by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Sen. Craig Estes, Sen. Robert Duncan and Rep. Charlie Geren for the bill signing.
"I'm proud to sign into law stronger eminent domain provisions protecting Texas landowners from local and state government entities that might consider abusing private property rights," Gov. Perry said. "We've come a long way in the effort to strengthen private property rights through this legislation, and thanks to the hard work of state lawmakers, particularly Sen. Estes, Sen. Duncan and Rep. Geren, the dream of property ownership is more secure in the State of Texas now than ever before."
SB 18 requires local and state government entities interested in acquiring private property to first make an offer, in writing and based on an appraisal, to the landowner to purchase the property through a voluntary sale for a fair price. This prevents entities from making lowball offers knowing the land can be taken by eminent domain if the landowner doesn't accept. The bill also requires condemnation petitions to specifically state the public use for which the land is needed, eliminating instances where land is taken without current plans for its use. Additionally, the bill makes it clear that eminent domain may only be used for public use.
"We know that Texas is thriving as a state and property is a valuable asset, but that growth should not come at the expense of property owners," Sen. Craig Estes said. "This is the most important bill to strengthen private property rights for landowners."
Further, SB 18 requires a government entity that takes land to first have a record vote stating the land to be taken and the project for which it is being taken. It also requires entities to provide all appraisals of the property they have during negotiations to ensure landowners understand the fair market value of their land. Finally, this legislation also allows landowners to repurchase land at the price they were paid for it if it becomes unnecessary for the project for which it was taken, or if no actual progress is made toward the project in 10 years, even if the project has not been cancelled.
"I am proud of the work done by members of the Texas Senate and House of Representatives to pass this important piece of legislation and am pleased to see eminent domain reforms signed into law," Sen. Robert Duncan said. "This is a strong law that was closely negotiated by major stakeholders across the state to secure enduring protections for property owners."
A former farmer, rancher and Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Gov. Perry has long made private property rights a priority. Last session at the governor's request, the Legislature passed a measure allowing Texans to vote on a constitutional amendment requiring land to be taken only for public use, ending the seizure of property for use by a private developer. Additionally, local governments can no longer condemn an entire area for redevelopment by claiming it is blighted without proving that each section is blighted. The amendment also protects Texas landowners against further grants of eminent domain authority by requiring each new grant to receive a 2/3 vote in each house of the Legislature. Texas voters passed this amendment in November 2009.
"I am proud that our private property owners' rights are better protected with the passage of SB 18," Rep. Charlie Geren said. "This is a great accomplishment and took a lot of hard work from many Texans across the state."
"This is a major victory for the people of Texas and a great accomplishment by Gov. Perry and our Legislature," Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. "The signing of this bill says, "Don't mess with Texas, and don't mess with Texas land.' SB 18 sends a clear message that here in the Lone Star State, we hold dear to our heritage of land ownership."
To see what Commissioner Staples, Rep. Geren and Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Director Tom Perini have said about the importance of eminent domain reforms, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/govperry#p/u/34/U2sj7OfP2Lk, http://www.youtube.com/user/govperry#p/u/35/6fO_rK5C2y0 and http://www.youtube.com/user/govperry#p/u/32/8ef3fe7Hv8g.