An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure�except when it comes to Texas property laws.
Old Ben Franklin was referring to fire fighting when he wrote this sage advice back in the 1700s. My corruption of Mr. Franklin’s idea refers today to the sorry state of Texas eminent domain laws.
Voters overwhelmingly blessed an ounce of prevention last year with the passage of a Constitutional amendment backed by Texas Farm Bureau which stops the government from taking private property to give to another entity for the primary purpose of economic development or enhance tax revenue.
That was a good start, but falls far short of the pound of cure Texas property laws need. Condemners have a license to steal, the way Texas eminent domain laws are written today. Not all condemners abuse the law. But horror stories abound of landowners suffering the injustice of unfair condemnation practices.
Look, for example, at Bryan Adamek, a South Texas farmer who fought against a lowball offer in eminent domain proceedings to take his valuable farmland for a landfill.
Or Covey Neatherlin, who could only watch from his back porch as his pecan grove, taken by eminent domain, was reduced to mulch.
Even city folk like Jim and Nazneen Talukder , whose 25-acres were sliced and diced by water and sewer lines through eminent domain proceedings that turned their idyllic country retreat into a living nightmare.
While the list of horrors is endless across the Lone Star State, the abuses must stop.
The opportunity for reform is ripe. The Texas legislature convenes in January. Both gubernatorial candidates are saying positive things about eminent domain reform. We have a general election in November. All 150 state representatives and 16 state senators are up for reelection.
Tell your favorite candidates they can count on your support. In turn, tell them you expect their support for Texas property law reform. Remind them that:
* The need for eminent domain reform is popular among Texans, with an over 80 percent favorable vote for Proposition 11. However, Proposition 11 was only the start for needed reform.
* The Legislature needs to complete penalties for condemners who do not negotiate in good faith.
* There must be adequate compensation for loss of access.
* A 10-year buyback provision is needed for land which isn’t used for the reason it was condemned.
Wise Ben Franklin also said energy and persistence conquers all things. I’ll not corrupt that quote.
For several years, Texas Farm Bureau leaders and members have carried the fight for Texas property law reform. We failed once because of veto. We failed the second time because of legislative mayhem.
I don’t think we will fail again. Texas Farm Bureau has the energy to keep the issue alive. Texas Farm Bureau members have the persistence to see it through.
The third time, I think, we will right the wrongs of Texas property laws.