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House Tentatively Passes Eminent Domain

Another bill on Gov. Rick Perry's emergency items list — eminent domain — tentatively passed in the House today, and it could further curb the government's right to take private property.

Gov. Rick Perry delivering his State of the State address on Feb. 8, 2011

Another bill on Gov. Rick Perry's emergency items list — eminent domain — tentatively passed in the House today, and it could further curb the government's right to take private property.

Current law states the government cannot seize private property for public usage without adequate compensation, but CSSB 18, authored by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, seeks to limit the entities from taking private property through eminent domain. The bill would require entities to make a "bona fide" offer, which includes a written initial and final offer to the property owner and a written appraisal of the land. The bill would also mandate entities that use eminent domain to write a letter to the comptroller, saying why it has authority to seize the property.

State representatives offered 26 amendments — half of which were adopted — and showed unanimous support of the bill in a preliminary vote.

Supporters of the bill say eminent domain reform is necessary to protect the rights of private property owners while maintaining public utilities. Some opponents say the bill would add a bigger burden to taxpayers, while others argue the bill does not protect property owners enough.

Perry said he is awaiting the bill.

"Property ownership is an essential freedom for Texans and an important part of fulfilling the American dream," he said in a statement.

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