Recent Eminent Domain News – May 15 Update
Here’s a quick roundup of eminent domain related stories news around Texas.
Texas high-speed rail project dodges bullet after budget rider dies
Source: The Texas Tribune
The Dallas-Houston high-speed rail project dodged a bullet this week, when lawmakers hashing out the state budget released their decision to strike a provision that could have delayed the project.
A committee of Texas House and Senate members ditched language that would have prevented the Texas Department of Transportation from coordinating with a high-speed rail company so its project could cross state highways until a court definitively affirms the company’s ability to use eminent domain with an unappealable ruling. That provision, called a budget “rider,” could have delayed the project for several years, according to Patrick McShan, an attorney for an opposition group and more than 100 landowners along the train’s planned route.
Eminent domain reform
Source: North Texas e-News
As more and more changes seem to be coming to Fannin County, it seemed important to keep the public informed on some changes that might affect them.
Senate Bill 421 and House Bill 991 are an attempt to make the process of purchasing land deemed necessary for the public interest more fair. Eminent domain is the power to force the sale of land for projects deemed in the public interest.
In researching this article, several entities were contacted. Jody Sodd McSpadden, from Dawson and Sodd, Eminent Domain Attorneys, Representative Reggie Smith, who is a sponsor of HB 991, and Senator Bob Hall, sponsor of SB 421.
Ms. Sodd McSpadden feels that any help given to the land owner is a benefit. She also stated, “It is not a level playing field for landowners.” She pointed out some of the possible changes these bills may include: Additional insurance coverage for land owners and limited right to assign interest and payment for damages. Also the bill mandates public meetings to ensure property owners understand the process and can have questions answered.
The Supreme Court Should End Pipeline Companies “Build First, Pay Later” Use Of Eminent Domain
“I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” That’s the catchphrase of Popeye the Sailor Man’s buddy Wimpy, but it also seems to describe the deal many pipeline companies have been offering to property owners. All across the country, pipeline companies are using court orders to take land before—long before—they pay the owner a penny. But now, the Institute for Justice is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to end the free lunch and make companies follow the proper legal and constitutional process for taking land.
Eminent Domain Legislation Passes Texas Senate
The push for Eminent domain Reform is underway in the Texas Senate. It remains to be seen what the final bills will look like after they have been considered by the House of Representatives. Charles Schwertner is the State Senator for District Five.
“There’s always been a tension between a state or a public use as defined in our constitution and just compensation and the taking by eminent domain and I passed out of the Senate this session four pieces of eminent domain legislation that are pretty significant pieces of legislation.”
Oil or property rights: House panel clashes over which to favor as it weighs eminent domain reforms
Source: The Texas Tribune
Lawmakers, lobbyists and landowners sparred at a Capitol committee hearing on Thursday over a batch of bills designed to protect property owners whose land may be seized by private companies to build oil and gas pipelines.
A bipartisan — though largely Republican — group of House and Senate legislators whose districts have been targeted for pipeline construction amid a historic oil and gas boom have proposed several measures this year aimed at helping landowners and local officials negotiate with deep-pocketed energy companies eager to move fossil fuels to processing and export facilities on the Gulf Coast.
The reform push has put some Republicans at odds with an industry they typically champion — and one that donates significant dollars to their political campaigns — as well as members of their own party.
Eminent domain law reform needed
Source: San Antonio Express-News
Two reform proposals moving through the Texas Legislature would provide more transparency and level the playing field for landowners forced to relinquish property under eminent domain laws.
SB 421 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and HB 991 by Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, address concerns that current laws do not provide sufficient government oversight and lack adequate protections for owners of private land. The issue arises when there is forced condemnation of their land by private for-profit entities to accommodate oil and gas pipeline and transmission lines.
Bill aimed at pipeline routing oversight reaches committee
Source: Hays Free Press
Legislation aimed at requiring energy companies to notify elected officials when there are plans to condemn private land for future projects has made its way to committee.
House Bill 3327, authored by State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) was laid out in the Land and Resource Management Committee April 25. If approved, HB 3327 would require pipeline operators with eminent domain authority to send a written notice of intent to county judges before contacting landowners. This notification would initiate a process for the county commissioners to exchange information with the operator about public infrastructure, planned developments, site-specific safety concerns, and environmental sensitivities.
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