Four years after the Supreme Court handed down Kelo vs. New London, eminent domain reform continues. Earlier this month, the Texas Senate passed an amendment that would make it harder for the government to seize land from private landowners via eminent domain.
The foundation of Senate Bill 18 is the provision that private land can not be seized and then redistributed for private use. The bill also calls for good faith negotiations and fair compensation. The amendment passed the Senate on a 31-0 unanimous vote and is now before the House, which is considering a separate amendment. If approved by the House, it would go before Texas voters in November.
Also in the bill are several procedural definitions that call for transparency and accountability in the process.
The language is as follows:
- Spells out objective criteria for courts to follow to determine good faith negotiations. Requires condemning entities to follow those criteria, or risk paying attorney fees and court costs for the landowner.
- Creates a “Truth in Condemnation Procedures Act,” which requires a bona fide offer in writing.
- Requires any condemnation procedure to be done in public and by a record vote.
- Allows a property owner or their heirs to repurchase condemned property, at the original price paid for the property, if it is not utilized for public use after a 10-year period.
- Requires all condemning entities to register with the state Comptroller. This will give the state a handle on how many and the kinds of entities having eminent domain power.
- All of these provisions apply to all entities, not just governmental entities.