Texas bill gives homeowners tool against eminent domain

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramFebruary 7, 2011 

AUSTIN — After years of conflict, the Texas Legislature could be heading toward a long-sought resolution on property rights with a carefully stitched compromise supported by Gov. Rick Perry, key lawmakers and major interest groups.

The eminent domain measure -- which strengthens protections for property owners -- is expected to be considered by the state Senate as early as Tuesday. Passage seems virtually certain since more than two-thirds of the chamber's 31 members have signed on as co-authors.

Perry put the legislation on a fast track by declaring it an emergency item that lawmakers are required to consider during the session's first 60 days. Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, is chief author of the Senate bill, SB18, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, is author of the House bill, HB279.

Proponents have fashioned a delicate coalition from a broad range of interest groups, some of whom were once on opposing sides. The Texas Farm Bureau is enthusiastically backing the measure. Other interest groups, such as pipelines and cities, harbor concerns about the bill but say they are at least begrudgingly on board, recognizing that it's probably the best deal they can get.

"Every word in there has been carefully crafted," said Estes, whose district includes Parker, Wise, and parts of Denton and Collin counties. "Nobody is 100 percent happy, which means it's a pretty good bill."

Accordingly, Estes said he will fight any amendment to ward off even the slightest change that could unravel the compromise.

"I don't care if your amendment turns lead into gold. It's not going to happen if I can help it," Estes said. "Any bill can be made better, but when you have all the major interest groups on board, let's don't let perfection get in the way of something that's good for Texas."

To read the complete article, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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