Texas Agriculture: Proposition 11, eminent domain, property rightsBy Mike Barnett

Okay, Texas Farm Bureau’s AGFUND endorsed candidate for governor lost the Republican primary. It was a huge disappointment for those who worked so hard to see Kay Bailey Hutchison heading our state government in Austin.

But as my blog writing partner Gene Hall said, the sun did come up on Wednesday morning. The birds sang. And life goes on. As does Texas Farm Bureau’s efforts to achieve true eminent domain reform.

Senator Hutchison recognized the archaic state of Texas property laws. She promised to right the private property wrongs which have plagued the Lone Star State. She promised to give true eminent domain reform priority in her administration. Although she was unsuccessful in a hard fought battle, Texas Farm Bureau’s fervor for private property rights justice has not cooled.

Nobody knows who will be elected in November. If the political pundits can be believed, it’s going to be a real horse race.

What I do know is although it has been bashed and battered over the last four years, the will to deliver eminent domain reform to Texas property laws has not been diminished. Farm Bureau leaders overachieved in their efforts to get Proposition 11 passed last year, and their efforts were rewarded as the constitutional amendment passed with the highest percentage of any of the proposals on the ballot.

But Proposition 11, which prohibits the government from acquiring land for non-public use, was only the first step. True reform will happen only when additional protections—including offers to landowners that represent fair market value, compensation to landowners for lost access to their property, and the right of landowners to repurchase land not used for condemning purposes—are added to state law.

 Texas Farm Bureau members need to work to finish reform efforts with the same intensity they tackled Proposition 11. We must lay the groundwork now to remind our state representatives and senators of the importance this issue holds for all Texans. New candidates for state government need to know where we stand.

When they go into session next January, state legislators must quickly affirm the language from last session’s SB 18, which unanimously passed the Senate but was tied up by the voter ID wrangling in the House as the session closed.

Any delay could be fatal to our efforts. If whoever is elected governor chooses to veto the reform bill, it would take every remaining day of the session to accomplish an override. There are many who are opposed to this effort to protect private property rights who will be seeking derailment at every opportunity. Those opportunities will abound with a legislative agenda crowded with Sunset bills, redistricting and dealing with an estimated $20 billion budget shortfall.

With the disappointments of the last two sessions, it would seem the deck is stacked against Farm Bureau in our eminent domain efforts. Not so. We are a grassroots organization of true believers. The fire to protect our rights as property owners burns deep within. We’ve come very close to achieving our goals two times.

Texans need eminent domain reform. Farm Bureau members are not timid in standing up for what they believe. We will work hard for success. I know we are up to the task. The third time will be the charm.


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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 “Texas property laws: Lost election opportunity means bigger battle for Texas Farm Bureau in private property rights war”

  1. Jim Westmoreland says:

    AGFUND backed the wrong horse in this race. Now that the primary race is over FB should strive to make amends with Gov. Rick Perry. Gov. Perry certainly has more concerns in common with most FB members than former Houston Mayor Bill White.

    Jim Westmoreland
    VP
    Grimes County Farm Bureau
    (713)252-2658 cell

  2. Thanks for the comment Jim. Farm Bureau has never closed the door on a relationship with Gov. Perry. But we heard the door slam loud and clear with the eminent domain reform veto in 2007. We’d love to work with the governor to achieve meaningful reform of what are clearly some of the worst emiment domain laws in the nation. The weak laws that were passed in 2005 did not do that, and Proposition 11 last year only fixed a very small portion of our eminent domain problem. Remember – farmers and ranchers made this decision. I’m sure they were concerned about credibility on the property rights issue if they’d done anything else. No decisions have been made about the November election.

  3. Indeed Farm Bureau and Gov have differences,I agreed with you Jim !

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