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As Texas’ 84th Legislative Regular Session closed on June 1, several bills pertinent to eminent-domain reform were sent to the political junkyard where other legislative “almosts” and “could-have-beens” also reside.

Bill-sitting-on-capital-hill

Photo depiction of School House Rock cartoon

R.I.P. SB 1601, 474 and 479

Senate Bill 1601, which would have excluded high-speed rail from using eminent domain and thwarted the development of the Texas Central High-Speed Railway between Dallas and Houston, never made it out of the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill was initiated by Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R – Brenham, who filed it with the Texas Senate on March 12 this year in order to better control the use of eminent domain by private companies. To read more about this bill, please read our blog.

Senator Kolkhorst also initiated Senate Bill 474, which died in the Texas House of Representatives after passing through the Senate by a 25-6 vote. In an effort to encourage fair initial offers, the bill would have required those seeking to acquire property to reimburse landowners for their attorneys’ fees if a panel of special commissioners, judge or jury determined the value of the land to be at least 20 percent higher than the amount offered by the condemnor during a condemnation proceeding. The bill initially required compensation only if the value exceeded the offer by at least 10 percent, but that number was changed to 20 percent in the Senate Committee on State Affairs. The House Land and Resource Management Committee left the bill pending. To read more about SB 474, please read our blog.

Senate Bill 479 faced a fate similar to SB 474’s as it made its way out of the Senate in a 29-1 vote only to be left perpetually pending in the House Business and Industry Committee. The bill, authored by Senator Charles Schwertner, R – Georgetown, would have more narrowly defined the phrase “actual progress.” In Texas, a landowner can repurchase his or her land if the condemning party has not made “actual progress” toward the intended use of the property within 10 years of the taking. “Actual progress,” however, can be difficult to define, and SB 479 would have helped remediate that ambiguity. To read more about SB 479, please read our blog.

Co-authored by Justin Hodge and Ayla Syed.

If you have any questions about this post, please feel free to contact Justin Hodge at jhodge@jmehlaw.com