P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
Fax (512) 463-0923
PROTECTING THE AMERICAN DREAM
Cowboy legend Will Rogers once offered the following investment advice: "Buy land. They ain't making any more of the stuff."
That suggestion is being followed in staggering numbers today as more and more Texans are achieving their American dream of owning real estate. But as new financing plans make it increasingly easy for individuals to qualify for mortgage loans, many of us in the Texas Legislature are looking beyond real estate purchasing and studying ways to help individuals hold on to their property investments.
With property taxes spiraling out of control, many property owners are left wondering how long they will be able to remain in the home or business location they worked so hard to obtain. Additionally, a new threat has emerged to property ownership in the form of eminent domain.
You may recall the recent Supreme Court decision (Kelo v. City of New London) upholding the ability of local governments to condemn property for the purpose of economic development. It was a split decision that sent shockwaves throughout the nation, particularly in Texas where private property rights are sacred.
During the current special session of the Texas Legislature, property tax and academic reform has been the dominant item of discussion in the Texas Senate, which voted earlier this week to reduce the property tax burden by approximately $4.8 billion over the next two years. But also under consideration is a proposal to help protect Texans from the inappropriate use of eminent domain.
Senate Bill 62, which I co-authored, responds to the controversial Supreme Court decision regarding the use of eminent domain, a power entrusted to the government to seize property in order to build highways or other projects that are needed for public purposes. With that power comes enormous responsibility, and SB 62 aims to place responsible limits on that authority.
Approved this week by the Senate and sent to the House for further consideration, SB 62 contains several protections for property owners, including:
- A prohibition on all eminent domain of private property to confer a private benefit to a private party;
- A prohibition on all eminent domain of private property for public use, if the public use is merely a pretext to confer a private benefit to a private party; and
- A limitation on all eminent domain for economic development purposes; wherein condemnation will only be allowed to eradicate existing harm to society caused by slum or blighted areas.
Now that Governor Perry has added the issue of eminent domain to the call in our current special session, this legislation can and should become law. As we work to help Texans achieve their dream of owning a home or business, we must continue to look for ways to help protect those investments. Protecting our property from inappropriate government seizure should be an integral part of that effort.
SENATOR JANE NELSON, R-LEWISVILLE, represents Senate District 12 including parts of Denton and Tarrant Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.