House approves bill to regulate eminent domain
AUSTIN — The Texas House unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would regulate the already-limited ability of governments to seize property using the power of eminent domain.
The proposed law specifies private property could only be seized by governments under "eminent domain" if needed for public use, such as highways or schools. It also dictates what evidence must be considered by special commissioners in making decisions on reimbursements and the rights of property owners to repurchase taken property.
The government would be required to make a "bona fide" offer to buy the property from landowners and pay for relocation expenses. It also puts into state law a prohibition on property seizure for private use, which already was prohibited by a constitutional amendment passed in 2009.
Lawmakers have been tinkering with the state's eminent domain law for years, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision sparked concern about governments abusing their constitutional power to seize private land.
Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has designated the eminent domain bill a legislative emergency.