AUSTIN – Texas House Appropriations chairman Jim Pitts has introduced legislation to protect property rights by strictly limiting eminent domain.
Pitts’ bill, House Bill 1483, will protect landowners and hold the taking of private land to a much higher standard. Pitts, who is in his ninth term as representative for District 10, which includes Ellis and Hill counties, filed the legislation Wednesday.
Texas began the process of limiting eminent domain in 2006 with the passing of Senate Bill 7. However, that legislation, passed quickly after the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in City of New London V. Kelo, does not do enough to adequately protect Texas landowners from seizure of their property through eminent domain proceedings, according to Pitts, R-Waxahachie.
Among other provisions, Pitts’ House Bill 1483:
• requires a public vote before eminent domain authority is exercised;
• requires condemning entities must submit bona fide offers to landowners;
• establishes the value of property as the value a willing buyer would pay a willing seller; and
• allows for landowners to repurchase their property from the acquiring entity when the entity fails to move forward with its intended project.
The Pitts bill also strictly defines “public use.”
“For years, the courts have chipped away at private property rights,” Pitts said. “Free enterprise, freedom and fairness require that landowners be treated better than they have.”
“It is absolutely critical that we set a stricter set of guidelines for the use of eminent domain,” Pitts said. “Texans should be able to feel secure that their property won’t be taken by the government without their consent. The right to own property is one of the cornerstones of our nation and our way of life. It should not be so easy for the government to infringe on that right.”