Texans are one step closer to meaningful eminent domain reform with the Senate’s passage of CSSB 421.
“Today’s Senate vote shows Texans that our senators know landowners need more fairness, transparency and accountability when their property is taken with eminent domain,” Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening said.
The bill, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, passed the Senate with a 28-3 vote.
CSSB 421 mandates that all easement agreements used for pipelines or electric transmission lines include minimum protections for landowners.
The bill also outlines increased transparency between the condemning private entity and the landowners.
Private entities would be required to host a meeting with affected landowners if 25 or more tracts of land owned by separate individuals are impacted by a project. If less than 25 tracts are affected, the private entity will meet with landowners who request a meeting.
“This is not a willing buyer-seller transaction. Landowners cannot walk away from the table. They only have two options—accept an offer or get taken to court,” Boening said. “However, CSSB 421 increases transparency and communication during the project to help protect landowners. A meeting to discuss the details and get their questions answered helps landowners better understand and navigate the project and negotiations.”
Under current eminent domain law, the only requirement for the initial offer is that it must be in writing.
CSSB 421 outlines additional requirements, including that the offer be based on fair market value and include damages to the remaining property. The initial offer must also be based on an appraisal, broker price opinion, comparative market analysis or market study. These valuations must be conducted by a certified appraisal or licensed real estate broker.
“Texans need and deserve fairness, accountability and transparency,” Boening said. “For too long, private entities have been able to take advantage of landowners. That must stop now. Texas needs to become the private property rights state we claim to be.”
Boening noted the bill’s success was led by Kolkhorst.
“Senator Kolkhorst has been a champion of private property rights,” Boening said. “She has been instrumental in moving this bill out of committee and through the Senate.”
The companion bill, HB 991 by Rep. DeWayne Burns, has been referred to the House Committee on Land and Resource Management.
“Rep. Burns has also contributed to the ongoing discussions to work toward eminent domain reform,” Boening said. “We look forward to continuing those discussions to move HB 991 out of committee.”