My name is Calvin Tillman from Aubrey, TX and I am a board member with the League of Independent Voters of Texas. And I support SB474. Madam Chair and committee members, thank you for allowing me to testify in
support of this bill.
When you think of Texas, you think of freedom and private property rights. While serving as a local elected official, I was shocked to find that for profit companies had the power to seize private property through eminent domain, perhaps I was naive. After listening to my constituents who had to deal with companies that had this authority, it was becoming apparent that Texas did not have as strong protection for private property rights as I had thought. Upon deeper research, I found that there were several private entities that were given the power to condemn private property in TX. There was also cases of governmental agencies taking property through eminent domain and handing it to private parties. It appears that in Texas, you can own and peacefully enjoy your property as long as somebody with more money doesn't want it. After the monumental case Kelo Vs New London CT, which stated that economic development was a valid use of eminent domain, most states took some sort of action including TX. Many of the steps that the Legislature has taken, helped improve protections in private property rights in this state. However, the Castle Coalition, who is a property rights advocacy group which defended Kelo, has rated every state. How do you think Texas ranked in this study? Top 5? Top 10? No, Texas ranks in the bottom half of all states regarding private property rights, an abysmal 27th with a C- ranking. Is that good enough for Texas? I do not believe that it is, and I doubt any Texan would be satisfied with that ranking.
So what separates the other states from Texas?
Legislation like SB 474. Many of the highest ranked property rights states have
adopted similar legislation to SB 474. I have personally spoke with several Texans, who have gone through this process. Nobody likes the eminent domain process, for one reason is that they feel that the process in fundamentally unfair. The legal fees incurred by private property owners can easily outweigh the benefits. What they really want is a fair process, and SB 474 offers some relief in that area. If those who use eminent domain are really trying to be fair, then this will not impact them at all. It does not affect their status as a condemning entity, but would help reach a balance with property owners. Why not take the steps to help Texas property owners.
I encourage you to pass SB 474. Thank you for your time.