Bills aim to protect Texas landowners in eminent domain process

State & Regional

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lawmakers from both chambers want more protections for Texas landowners. 

Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed legislation to change the current process of eminent domain, which is a power that governments have to seize private property for public use, like highways, bridges, hospitals or public parks. However, many private, for-profit companies such as pipeline corporations, can also condemn property by using eminent domain power and have little public oversight. 

Both of their bills focus on three areas when private companies want to exercise eminent domain: requiring a public meeting to ensure property owners understand the eminent domain process and can ask questions, mandating minimum protections that must be present in a contract and holding condemners accountable if they offer landowners less compensation than they are owed for their property. 

“It’s on the forefront of most Texans’ minds,” Kolkhorst said. “If you’re impacted by this, if you had one experience in this realm, it stays with you forever. We’re just trying to give a template to say this is fair – this is fair for the private property owners to give their land up. That’s a hard thing to do so it should be at least fair and transparent.” 

The legislation also has support from the Texas Farm Bureau, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Wildlife Association. 

“The bill will provide these common-sense provisions be made a part of any deal so that all the property owners don’t have to go out and hire the most expensive lawyers to negotiate these most important provisions for you,” said William Knolle, who is a lawyer, rancher and affiliated with the Texas Wildlife Association. 

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