As Republicans Play Games With Eminent Domain, Citizens Pay

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Commentary, Around The State at 4:11 pm by wcnews

A bill that had been in the works for 2-plus years and was sailing through the legislature gets vetoed. How does this happen? The bill in question, HB 2006, was supposed to clear up any lingering issues of eminent domain left over from the US Supreme Court ruling of 2005, known as Kelo v. City of New London.

Well our great Texas leadership got hold of itg and the bill that was a “no-brainer” to protect Texas landowners wound up getting vetoed. The issue with Kelo was that that the land was being taken for the “public use” of creating more tax revenue, aka economic development. The premise being that if the land was developed, as opposed to leaving it as a residence, it would create more tax revenue for “public use”. Most state’s, Texas included, have been trying to pass their own laws to make sure this can’t happen in their state. This has become more and more important in Texas as Gov. Perry’s land-grab transportation schemes continue to move forward.

I don’t believe, at this time, that there was any sinister plot by the governor to keep this bill from becoming law. From media accounts it appears that Rep. Beverly Woolley, (R-Houston), with an assist from Sen. Glenn Hegar Jr., (R-Katy), added a last minute amendment that brought the veto to this bill:

Now some are questioning the motives of at least one key legislator: bill author Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, who could stand to personally benefit from the Hegar amendment if the bill becomes law.

Woolley owns a business, Houston Armature Works Inc. on Houston’s Harrisburg Boulevard, where Houston Metro is planning to construct a four-mile rapid transit extension. It’s “a huge project” expected to take three years to complete, said agency spokeswoman Sandra Salazar.

Access to businesses along Harrisburg Boulevard is sure to be an issue during construction and the Hegar amendment specifically addresses issues of access during road projects.

It would allow property owners to sue for “diminished access” to their property because of new roads or road construction. Current law requires property owners to show “material or substantial damages” before seeking compensation for it in the courts.

Woolley insists she carried the Hegar amendment not because she was philosophically wedded to it but because she feared she did not have sufficient time, in the last days of the session, to get a compromise in committee.

She vehemently denied she had her own interests in mind when she pushed through HB 2006. “This is a statewide bill that affects every property owner,” she said. Asked whether she could benefit from the Hegar amendment, she said: “Maybe, maybe not.”

Of course Rep. Mike Krusee being with the governor, opposing this bill, isn’t going to help the Perry’s position any.

Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, who heads the House Transportation Committee, said he voted against an otherwise good bill because the amendment could have easily consumed half the state’s transportation budget. “It could have stopped most road building in Texas,” he said.

He said the repercussions would be enormous. Every time the state built a road median, every property owner along that road could sue because access to their land was “diminished,” Krusee said. Same for the installation of a traffic light or a new intersection or new-road construction.

The Texas Farm Bureau doesn’t like that this happened and rightfully so.

The property owners of Texas are dumbfounded that a governor from Paint Creek, Texas could veto the most important property rights legislation in more than a decade. When the Texas Farm Bureau Board of directors met with him earlier in the session, the governor agreed that eminent domain needed to be fixed.

My only caution to the Farm Bureau would be is that if the Hegar amendment isn’t added Perry would not have been able to make a political case to veto this bill, no matter what Rep. Krusee would have said.

Gov. Perry (veto statement on HB 2006) and Rep. Woolley (AAS Op-Ed) have each made their case for who’s to blame on this issue. Either way it’s a failure of leadership of those who control our state’s government and that includes Gov. Perry and Rep. Woolley. And the landowners of Texas are, again, left unprotected.


  1. bhowe said,

    June 22, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Texas Farm Bureau appreciates your support for HB 2006, but some of your take on what happened with the legislation at the end of session is incorrect. Granted, to an outside observer, it would seem that the Hegar amendment was the cause of Governor Perry’s veto. However, it was not. The Texas Farm Bureau legislative team worked closely with Representative Woolley and Senator Janek throughout the session. Therefore, we were privy to the “blow by blow” events.

    When HB 2006 passed the House to the Senate, it included language that “any factor” a willing buyer and seller would consider could be used in determining compensation. One of those factors could have been compensation for diminished access to your property. Of course, diminished access is the reason given for the veto. The condemning authorities went to Senator Janek and convinced him to change the language. The changes basically put everything in HB 2006 back to current law, so then, what would have been the point to passing a bill that did nothing to help property owners? Texas Farm Bureau and others went to Senator Janek and explained the impact of the changes. Senator Janek asked us to work on new language to fix the problem. He then took the new language, which is know now as the “Janek amendment” to TXDOT and the Governor’s staff. TXDOT immediately objected claiming it would cost $100 million more a year because they would have pay for diminshed access. Which by the way is the same issue the Hegar Amendment addressed. So, even though the governor and TXDOT want to focus everyone on the Hegar amendment, they were making the same claims on the Janek amendement a week before anyone ever saw the Hegar amendment. If you go back and read the veto proclamation you will notice that it speaks of two amendments, the other amendment was the Janek Amendment.

    Senator Janek and Duncan met with stakeholders from both sides Saturday and Sunday before HB 2006 came to the Senate floor for a vote. During those meetings, they requested numbers to substantiate the $100 million cost claims. Of course, now that cost claim has risen to a $1 billion. Those numbers were never produced, which is why Senator Janek moved forward with his amendment.

    Fast forward to Representative Woolley and the House. Obviously, TXDOT and the Governor’s office was not pleased the Janek and Hegar amendments were added to HB 2006. It was at this point the first threat of veto was made. Representative Woolley told them to provide her language to fix their concerns, but she was not interested in any language that did not compensate the landowner for the devaluation of their property. She felt strongly that the landowner should be paid for the “injuries” suffered from the condemnation. One of the oldest tricks in the book to kill a bill is to “slow play.” You negotiate it to death by dragging it out until there is no time left. Therefore, Representative Woolley gave TXDOT and the Governor’s office a deadline, and they did not meet it. Representative Woolley refused to let them kill her bill by running out the clock.

    The bottomline is that had Representative Woolley agreed to strike the Hegar Amendment, there still would not have been a deal because they also opposed the Janek Amendment. And, let’s not forget that they tried to get Senator Janek to strike the original compensation language in the bill as well. Without those amendments, property owners would not have received one more dime in compensation than what they can get today under current law. And, that is exactly what the opposition wanted. Howevever, Represenative Woolley had been clear from day one when she filed HB 2006 that the bill must provide fair compensation to property owners. She did not intend to pass legislation leaving the status quo. In our opinion, her unwillingness to bow to political pressure and gut her bill showed great leadership.

  2. Eye on Williamson » Texas Farm Bureau Responds, Clarifies HB 2006 Veto said,

    June 22, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    […] from the comments. Below is a response from the Texas Farm Bureau to this EOW post regarding Gov. Perry’s veto of HB 2006, a bill regarding eminent domain. In the extended post […]

  3. Eye on Williamson » Perry Op-Ed On HB 2006, Saves Who Money? said,

    July 2, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    […] this bill was originally vetoed EOW posted on it and then got into an enlightening discussion with the Texas Farm Bureau about the particulars of […]

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