A Texas state senator introduced a bill seeking to prevent the use of eminent domain to take private property for public projects. TX SB 479 creates a stricter pool of defined project milestones that government entities would have to hit to prove they are making progress toward the stated public use, according to Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who proposed the bill. “It’s important that the legislature reestablish the rights of private property owners, prevent government abuse, and encourage more timely use of property acquired through eminent domain. While eminent domain is commonly used for the greater good, it’s a power that can be easily abused,” Schwertner said in a statement.
SB 479 is intended to build on a 2011 law requiring “actual progress” be made to hold land via eminent domain. If there is no such progress, the property owner may buy back the condemned land. Schwertner contends a more stringent set of definitions is necessary to prevent abuse of eminent domain and to protect landowners’ rights.
SB 479 bumps up the number of necessary milestones that a government entity would have to hit to continue exercising eminent domain from two major benchmarks to three. The possible milestones allowed under Schwertner’s bill include performing significant labor on the property, purchasing development materials, applying for state or federal funds, procuring the services of an expert needed for the project — such as an architect, engineer or surveyor — or applying for a state or federal permit for the development.