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Relating to the acquisition of real property by an entity with eminent domain authority.
According to the Department of Transportation, there would be an indeterminate fiscal
impact to the State due to a possible reduction in highway construction and increase in
amounts paid for right-of-way acquisition. For illustrative purposes, if right-of-way
acquisitions in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 were to occur at similar rates to fiscal year 2019,
the two-year estimated cost to the State Highway Fund and the Texas Mobility Fund is
estimated to be $416,480,000.
SB 421 would add requirements that must be met before a private entity may acquire real property through eminent domain. These requirements include inserting certain terms for instruments of conveyance; not engaging in ex parte communications with courts or special commissioners; mandating a public meeting in which the private entity is required to participate; and holding private entities accountable if they offer property owners less compensation than they are owed. If the special commissioners award to the property owner an amount that exceeds the condemnor's initial offer by at least 25%, then the property owner is entitled to an additional amount regardless of whether the condemnor objects or the amount of damages ultimately awarded by a court.
Texas Action supports SB 421 because it promotes private property rights and limited government. Currently, state law gives landowners very little leverage within the negotiation process to entice a fair deal from the condemnor. When landowners are forced to give up ownership of their property, their rights should be firmly protected. SB 421 would create a substantially more fair, equitable, and transparent eminent domain process before private entities could acquire real property.