Lynn Stucky, D.V.M., State Representative House District 64
Texans can expect private property advocates to push legislation to reform eminent domain laws in the upcoming legislative session. Late last session, efforts ceased when a compromise could not be reached between Texans for Property Rights and the Coalition for Critical Infrastructure. There was compromise between the groups on smaller reforms, but negotiations broke down when there was not an agreement on fundamental changes.
Arguments presented by the landowners say condemning entities have the upper-hand in eminent domain because they control when and if they go to court, barring an agreement. However, state law requires a bona fide offer to be equal or above the appraised value of the land by a certified appraiser and industry groups often claim they offer over the appraised value to get projects started. In a survey done by the Texas Pipeline Association, from 2015 to 2018, only three percent of condemnation cases went to court, giving credence to their claim of acting in good faith. However, I think it’s fair to assume some Texans can’t afford the cost of a court case and negotiate terms of an agreement.
I have suggested two smaller, common-sense solutions moving forward. First, for private property associations to increase their fees by a few dollars in order to provide legal advice by a condemnation attorney to land owners going through potential eminent domain proceedings. Second, for a change in the law to mandate that a second appraisal done by a certified appraiser, of the landowner’s choosing, at the expense of the condemner and negotiate differences in appraisals.
Moving forward, I will continue to support stronger protections for landowners but before we pass a major reform, I would like to see both groups support it. Texas property owners and utility providers deserve a process that is fair and consistent. One that ensures infrastructure projects aren’t slowed down, while also protecting Texas landowners from uncompensated damages and lowball offers. As your state representative, I look forward to being a part of the process and working for the betterment of Texas.