Kay Bailey Hutchison greeted members of the state’s largest farm organization with a pledge to fix a broken eminent domain system within 60 days of when she takes office as the new Texas governor.
“As governor, I will make reforming our state’s eminent domain laws a priority, and I will designate that issue an emergency item during the 82nd legislative session,” Hutchison told the more than 1,200 farmers and ranchers gathered at the Fort Worth Convention Center Monday for the 76th annual Texas Farm Bureau state convention.
“You will never have to worry about government ever again taking your property for a less than public reason once I’m in the governor’s office,” she said. “We will fix eminent domain.”
Lawmakers must better define “public use” and “economic development,” she said. “I will also see to it that landowners or their heirs can repurchase condemned property for the original purchase price whenever a planned project is canceled or extensively delayed.”
Hutchison also vowed to include consideration of diminished access to property when calculating a fair level of compensation, something current Gov. Rick Perry shunned in past attempts to remedy eminent domain laws in the state.
“Protection of private property interests is critical,” Hutchison said. “Our current governor says he believes this, too. He holds meaningless signing ceremonies at the Alamo, and declares himself to be a property rights supporter. Unfortunately, this is another area where his words and his actions do not line up.”
Texas Farm Bureau has made eminent domain reform a priority in the last two legislative sessions in Austin. In 2007, the organization fought relentlessly for HB 2006, which would have overhauled the state’s eminent domain policies. After winning the Senate and the House, the legislation died at the hand of Perry’s veto pen.
When similar legislation bogged down earlier this year in the 81st session, Perry failed to show the leadership necessary to get the bill passed, nor did he bother adding the issue to the agenda of his special called session, said Kenneth Dierschke, president of Texas Farm Bureau and TFB’s Friends of Agriculture Fund Inc. (AGFUND), the organization’s political action arm.
“AGFUND’s support of Kay Bailey Hutchison as the next governor of Texas is a matter of trust,” Dierschke said. “We’ve always been able to take Sen. Hutchison at her word, and she will do more of the same as governor of Texas at a time that is of critical importance to farmers, ranchers and property owners in our state.”
In addition to defining her eminent domain policies, Hutchison railed against Perry’s management of the Texas Department of Transportation and its supposed twice killed Trans-Texas Corridor, known by many in the Farm Bureau as the biggest land grab in state history.