Legislation to protect private property owners from certain land seizures appeared dead Tuesday when the House refused to negotiate a final version of the bill with the Senate.
Although Senate Bill 62 may be doomed for this special session, which ends at midnight, lawmakers are likely to revive the issue if another special session is called.
Because the House and Senate passed different versions, each chamber needed to appoint members to a conference committee to work out a compromise agreement.
The Senate had agreed to negotiate with the House.
But Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, persuaded 91 representatives not to negotiate with the Senate, which he said would result in weakening the bill. Forty voted to negotiate.
"We need to do something for the property owners of Texas, and this is the only thing we have right now," Corte said. "If it's watered down, it's not worth passing."
Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, who authored the bill in the upper chamber, said he will not accept the House's version.
A major sticking point, he said, is a provision that would require governments to pay replacement value — rather than fair market value — when property is seized.
"That's just a litigation nightmare," said Janek. "I didn't like that. We have to be very careful about the wording of that bill."
The House version would have made cities pay more in compensation to the owners of homes and business that would be condemned under eminent-domain laws. It also would have closed a loophole that would have allowed governments to define whether a particular project was for economic development – what proponents said was akin to the wolf guarding the henhouse.
The Senate version left those provisions out of its bill, with its author, Houston GOP Sen. Kyle Janek, saying it would have destroyed the cities' abilities to proceed on community development projects.
As there almost certainly will be another session, there ought to be the time to put together a proposal that has broad agreement overall and which is limited to the original scope of clarifying state law in light of Kelo. If legislators can't do that, then they can always go back to working on school finance like they were called to Austin to do.
There's apparently a UT angle in this as well. BOR's John Pruett has more on that.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 20, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack