Earlier today State Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne) filed a pair of bills aimed at resolving the legislative impasse over eminent domain reform that began in the 2015 legislative session.
The first, HB 901, applies only to private entities with eminent domain authority (e.g., oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission utilities) and deals primarily with the contents of a bona fide offer and specific easement terms. It also requires the entity to notify the county judge before it makes an initial offer to a landowner in that county. These are among the provisions included in SB 421 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), which passed the Senate last session.
The second, HB 902, represents proposed legislation developed by the Coalition for Critical Infrastructure (CCI), a group of public and private entities with eminent domain authority organized by TCJL at the beginning of the 2017 session. CCI’s purpose is to achieve eminent domain reform that enhances fairness, accountability, and transparency for landowners without generating costly litigation. Like HB 901, though in a slightly different way, HB 902 addresses the contents of the bona fide offer and specifies minimum easement terms for oil and gas pipelines. HB 902 additionally applies to both public and private entities, provides different options for landowner meetings, creates an ombudsman program to assist landowners with questions about the process, requires certification of right-of-way agents, and inserts into the law a revised Landowner Bill of Rights written in plain language. Each of these provisions responds to concerns about the process expressed over the past three sessions.
TCJL would like to express its appreciation to Rep. Burns for introducing both bills and looks forward to working with him, his staff, and members of the House and Senate to achieve a consensus with the stakeholders moving forward. The prospects for resolving this multi-session controversy have never been better.