06 November 2007

Texas Proposition 7

Most of the issues on the Texas ballot today are boring to an outsider. One, however, is an interesting idea, Proposition 7. The League of Women Voters guide states:

Official Ballot Language

The constitutional amendment to allow governmental entities to sell property acquired through eminent domain back to the previous owners at the price the entities paid to acquire the property.


Currently, if a governmental entity acquires a private real property interest through eminent domain but the public use for which the property interest was acquired is canceled before the 10th anniversary of the date of acquisition, then the previous owner is entitled to repurchase the property interest for its fair market value at the time the public use was canceled.

Proposition 7 would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize, under certain conditions, a governmental entity to sell back real property acquired through eminent domain to the original owner(or to the person's heirs, successors, or assigns.) This could be done at any time and at the price the entity paid to acquire the property from the original owner.

Arguments For

• Property owners subject to the taking of their land that wrongfully resulted in cancelled, absent, or unnecessary public uses would be the only ones eligible for restitution under this proposition.
• Condemning authorities would be strongly discouraged from acquiring land through eminent domain for which there were no immediate plans. Takings completed on a speculative basis can deprive current owners of the future value of their property. Proposition 7 would establish an important safeguard against the excessive and reckless use of eminent domain.

Arguments Against

• State and federal law already require that the owner be fairly compensated for property when eminent domain is exercised. If the owner has made a profit from investing money from the original sale, then is allowed to repurchase the land at the original price he will have used public money for personal financial gain.
• This amendment is unfair to those citizens who sell their property through eminent domain proceedings and are not able to repurchase it. A former owner who repurchases property at the acquisition value does not pay property taxes, maintenance expenses or other costs associated with property ownership during the period it is held by the
governmental entity.

While I doubt that eminent domain takings are cancelled very often, it does seem fair to require the government to disgorge profits from the taking to the original owner in the way suggested, as a remedy against wrongful takings.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The measure, and all other fifteen proposals on the Texas ballot, passed.