Rep. DeWayne Burns held a joint press conference with Sen. Lois Kolkhorst to discussion eminent domain legislation they were filing.

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.


Rep. DeWayne Burns

  • HB 991, eminent domain reform, “protect landowners”
  • Pro-growth, want to promote progress
  • Bill will not slow energy development/growth
  • Quicker process with less litigation
  • Coalition of property rights orgs, landowners, etc with them there today


Sen. Lois Kolkhorst

  • Companion SB 421
  • 3rd iteration of this bill
  • Bill is trying to give a level playing field to land owners
  • 3 main components of the bill:
    • Define min easement terms (requires standardized easement forms), contain min protections for landowners, similar language from SB 740 last session
    • Public meeting requirement – see used very often in things like power lines, public meeting must be held in that county and provides a forum where land owners can have questions answered
    • “Low offer protection” – Get a fair offer up front, prevent “low-ball” offers, varying level of damages provided in language
  • She hears frequent questions on eminent domain, provides story of her being stopped in her church by a person from Austin County asking questions on simple process
    • There needs to be “Common sense and etiquette” of how to treat land owners when taking their land
    • Points out her discussions on about bad actors, this is about bad actors
    • Desire to put into statute minimum starting point for land owners in negotiations
    • Says getting tons of calls from Fort Bend area on eminent domain
  • Issue affects both urban and rural
  • Narrowed down the bill, taken out public entities, only includes private entities


Bobby McKnight, Pres. Texas Cattle Raisers

  • Fixing eminent domain laws which allow “private companies who subsidize their profits with the power of condemnation”
  • Texans deserve a process that is fair and respectful of partnership in the energy infrastructure and holds private condemners responsible for their conduct
  • Supports both bills


Russell Banning, Pres. Texas Farm Bureau

  • “Misleading to call these reforms an attack on progress”
  • Rapid growth of TX will at times require eminent domain, but property owners have constitutional right to fair treatment and just compensation
  • There must be true good faith offers and consequences if it does not occur
  • These reforms will not delay critical infrastructure, transparency and fairness will reduce the amount of legal challenges and speed up process
  • Time for Texas to become the property right state they would all like it be


Bill Knolle, Chairman Texas Wildlife Assoc.

  • Reforms provide information
  • Many Texans don’t know what questions to ask, reforms make “common sense provisions” a part of every deal
  • Current system is out of balance, there are needed reforms in the bill



  • Burns confirms this is for private entities, practical application is that it can happen to any landowner whether it is a pipeline or electric transmission line or some other condemnation proceeding that occurs
  • Kolkhorst talks about a bill in 2015 where many witnesses showed up, had one witness with a concern with a pipeline developing diagonally across his lot, wanted to negotiate with them but didn’t know how
  • Kolkhorst said there is a pipeline going through Katy area right now, they are getting lots of phone calls on it
  • Kolkhorst noted Texas Municipal League and Texas Assoc of Counties have been good players, have decided to narrow the bill for now, but provides example of TxDOT who said when they are taken court will award on avg. 28% than their initial offer
    • Would say probably would want to include everyone on eminent domain authority
    • But found greatest consensus could gather was on pipelines and powerline
    • TxDOT occasionally makes low offers as well so Kolkhorst sees this as a step and then should probably apply to everyone in eminent domain
  • Burns said some governmental/public entities are already doing these things, so in some ways its about raising expectations of private entities
  • Burns noted there is a provision in the bill to address damages, said lack of information is the problem
  • Kolkhorst regarding a question on Federal Government use of eminent domain, notes again this bill was narrowly crafted to get through both chambers
  • Kolkhorst this bill is the next step, bill is tailored to for-profit entities
    • If could get enough votes this could be broaden, there may be amendments
  • Kolkhorst notes this bill is a constituent bill