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Texas Corrals Entities with Eminent Domain Power

by Elizabeth Alford on January 11, 2016

The Texas comptroller will soon be monitoring public and private entities that have eminent domain authority in the state.

Related: Private Property Rights Threatened

Eminent domain is a concept that makes most Americans bristle. The idea that government entities can seize or use private property smacks of theft to many, though state and federal constitutions stipulate that those whose land is affected must be compensated.

Most people understand that some minimal use of eminent domain is inevitable in order to ensure that we have the roads, sewers, electric power grids and pipelines necessary for our communities to thrive. But an increase in abuses have cause Texans to be wary of the overreach.

Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) told owners of roughly 90,000 acres area along the Red River that their property actually belongs to the federal government due to a decades-old change in the course of the river. Texas landowners and the state are fighting that one right now.

This type of thing has become possible because the number of entities in Texas with potential eminent domain power has exploded. There are at least 6,300 agencies, local governments, special districts, pipeline companies and utilities that claim some form of eminent domain powers, though the numbers are vague. 

In an effort to provide more transparency, the 84th Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 1812, that mandates the Comptroller of Public Accounts to create an online eminent domain database for public and private entities with eminent domain authority to report specific information to the Comptroller for posting. The system went into effect on Monday, December 7, 2015.

Glenn Hegar, the Texas comptroller of public accounts, told MySA that “With this database, Texans will be able to see contact information for each entity, the legal provisions granting it eminent domain authority and the focus or scope of that authority, and whether it has used this authoriy in the preceding year by filing a condemnation petition, among other data.”

For more information, go to comptroller.texas.gov

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