Last month, I briefly discussed the bogus eminent domain “reform” legislation that unanimously passed the Texas Senate. Over at RedState, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) Vice President for Research Bill Peacock — who also directs TPPF’s Center for Economic Freedom — has a post on the problems with the bill, SB 18, and what can be done to improve it and actually enhance property rights protections for all Texans:
While it offers improvement over the status quo, the problem with SB 18 is that it has been highly negotiated by special interests over the last three legislative sessions, resulting in an “agreed upon” bill that people are reluctant to change less someone jump off the bandwagon. However, when one of those on the bandwagon is the Texas Municipal League, how good SB 18 can be? After all, it was TML that proclaimed that Kelo “simply confirms what cities have known all along: under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, economic development can be as much a ‘public use’ as a road, bridge, or water tower.”
One example—the buyback provision—will suffice to show the need to improve SB 18.
Currently, while property can only be taken for a public use, there is no requirement that the property—once taken—must be used for that same use. So, for a real life example, property owners near San Antonio might find their property taken for a reservoir eventually being used for a Toyota plant. SB 18 has a provision to address this problem, but it is unfortunately worse than current law.
According to SB 18, a government entity has to meet two of seven criteria to demonstrate that it is using a property for the public use for which it was taken—and thereby avoid the requirement to offer the property for sale back to the original owner. However, one of those seven criteria is that the government entity pass a resolution saying they will only meet one of the other six! Then four of those six are requirements that the government entity 1) apply for a permit, 2) apply for funds, 3) take two properties for the same use, or 4) hire an architect. No property owner will ever get her property back under SB 18.