One of the highlighted issues for the upcoming 85th Legislative Session is eminent domain. Eminent domain gives the state or a private entity the power to take private property for public use. The Texas Constitution protects landowners by prohibiting the taking, damaging or destruction of private property for public use without adequate compensation for landowners. The state legislature is considering revising eminent domain laws to give more leverage to private landowners.
Earlier this year, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told the legislature to research past eminent domain deals. The Lieutenant Governor wants to particularly focus on making sure private landowners are being fairly compensated for lost property. The concern is that private landowners are not being compensated appropriately because landowners are at a disadvantage with a lack of resources and experience. Currently, the power of eminent domain allows the state and private entities to make lowball offers to landowners. Eminent domain laws require the state and private entities to make ‘good faith’ offers to landowners initially. If a deal cannot be reached, then the dispute goes to a jury trial and landowners are discouraged to do this because of high legal fees. Lawmakers want to change eminent domain laws to help landowners battle pipeline companies, electric utilities or high-speed rail development.
Eminent domain laws are necessary but the state legislature wants to work towards giving more rights to landowners. The goal is to equip Texas landowners with more rights and tools to negotiate better deals for themselves.