By Mike Barnett

Texas Farm Bureau: Proposition 11 in Texas

Keep your eyes on Proposition 11. That’s the Texas Farm Bureau backed constitutional amendment which will stop the government from taking private property to give to another entity for the primary purpose of economic development or to enhance tax revenue.

Early voting started Monday and will continue through Oct. 30. The general election is Nov. 3. The last of the constitutional amendments on the ballot, Proposition 11  is an important step toward eminent domain reform and protection of private property rights in the Lone Star State. I urge you to check yes on the ballot.

What a long, strange journey for property rights Texans have traveled over the past few years. Sparked by a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave cities the right to use eminent domain for private development, the Texas Legislature ramped up efforts to reform Texas archaic laws.

In the 80th legislative session, the House passed a reform bill overwhelmingly and the Senate unanimously that would have leveled the playing field between private property owners and condemners. Gov. Perry vetoed it.

Disappointment was huge in rural Texas. The Trans-Texas Corridor had captured headlines across the state and private property owners were up in arms as the proposed route was going to cut right through the heart of some of the richest farmland in the state.

So we enter the 81st legislative session. Bills are introduced in both House and Senate. Senate Bill 18 by Craig Estes wins unanimous support in the Texas Senate. It contains the reforms Texas Farm Bureau and a host of other organizations concerned with private property rights said were needed; reforms which would have added protections such as compensation to landowners for lost access to their property, offers that represent fair market value and the right to repurchase land not used for condemning purposes.

What was not anticipated was the furor over another issue in the House at the end of the session that effectively killed the legislation. HJR 14, the basis of Proposition 11, was hurriedly passed instead.

Governor Perry signed HJR 14 into law.   Eminent domain reform did not make it into the special session. And that’s where we are today.

Both Republican candidates for governor have urged voters to vote for the private property rights protection.

Gov. Perry said he’ll be checking the box for Proposition 11 “which sustains our state’s forward momentum in protecting private property rights and builds a firewall between the misguided principles of the Supreme Court’s Kelo ruling and our state’s private property owners.”

His opponent in the Republican primary, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, is also urging voters to say aye to Proposition 11.

“I think all of us need to support Proposition 11. But we also need to be very clear that this is a step, not the end of the road,” Hutchison told the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinal. “We will protect private property rights in Texas with legislation after we have passed this constitutional amendment.”

Texas Farm Bureau agrees. Proposition 11 is important. Farm Bureau members are working hard to ensure its passage. But they also realize this constitutional amendment is only the beginning.

My wish is we wake up Nov. 4 with the protection in the Texas Constitution which Proposition 11 affords. That will send a clear signal to our state lawmakers that Texans are truly interested in eminent domain reform.

Passage of Proposition 11 will be the start of another journey for protection of private property rights and true eminent domain reform. Let’s hope this one will not be as long and strange as the last one.

Vote for private property rights. Vote Yes for Proposition 11.

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
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3 Responses to “Prop. 11 start of a new private property rights journey”

  1. Marilynn Dierschke says:

    Just a question….aren’t propositions 2 and 3 important to a fair market value appraisal and to know that there is consistency across county boundaries in making those appraisals? Is it fair to have a market appraisal which is based on production value rather than the property’s market value just like everybody else whose property is appraised? OK, that’s two questions..my bad.

  2. Mike Barnett says:

    Hi, Marilynn,

    Proposition 2 is designed to help protect property owners from unfair appraisals. This proposition ensures that a primary residence is appraised as a residential property, not some hypothetical value based on "highest and best use." Some appraisal districts have increased the appraised value of homesteads by 200 percent because they are near commercial development. This proposition ensures that appraisal districts are not allowed to conduct this unfair practice. Texas Farm Bureau supports this proposed amendment.

    Proposition 3 is designed to provide uniform standards and procedures for appraisal districts statewide. There are pros and cons to this. On the plus side it could be used to rein in a renegade appraisal district that imposes unfair practices (for example, Williamson County attempted to appraise one acre on every agriculture parcel as a homestead – even though no house was on the property and the property owner already paid taxes on their home elsewhere). On the negative side, it would limit a local district’s ability to respond to unique circumstances. Texas Farm Bureau has no position on this proposed amendment.

    According to TFB Associate Legislative Director Ken Hodges, there is an erroneous email being circulated concerning Propositions 2 and 3.

    Let me first emphasize that Propositions 2 and 3 do not create a new tax to the state. The state Constitution prohibits a state property tax as follows: TEXAS CONSTITUTION, Article 8 Taxation and Revenue, Sec. 1-a. NO STATE AD VALOREM TAX LEVY.

    However, the Legislature and the Constitution do have authority in instructing those entities that levy property taxes. I can see where the confusion comes from because of the wording. However, when put into the context of the entire Constitution, one can see local property taxing entities get their authority from the Constitution, and guidance from there and the Legislature.

    Mike

  3. In a word, Marilyn, YES.

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