Death of eminent domain legislation a blow to private property rights

FORT WORTH – Robert McKnight, Jr., president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association issued the following statement after S.B. 421, eminent domain reform, succumbed to a Texas House of Representatives deadline after House conferees refused to sign a conference report:

“For years, thousands of property owners across Texas have asked for real, meaningful eminent domain reform. We are disappointed that despite these pleas, eminent domain reform was not accomplished this legislative session.

“The author of S.B. 421, Senator Lois Kolkhorst, has been an outspoken champion for Texas property owners and deserves tremendous credit for her tireless work to protect our private property rights through the legislative process.

“S.B. 421 was the subject of intense negotiations in both the Texas Senate and House. That process yielded language that was largely acceptable to the stakeholders, but unfortunately, the language voted from the House Committee on Land and Resource Management was drafted by its chairman, Representative Tom Craddick, at the last minute with little to no input from us or other stakeholders. As a result, its contents would have actually harmed the very property owners it should have helped.

“The real victims in the process are the hardworking Texas property owners who remain saddled with an unfair eminent domain process that gives every advantage to condemnors. Those private, for-profit condemnors will continue to operate with zero accountability or transparency. The voice of Texas property owners was loud and consistent, but the oil and gas lobby and industry-backed lawmakers killed real reform.

“We would like to again thank Sen. Kolkhorst for her unwavering support as well as Lt. Governor Dan Patrick who personally oversaw Senate negotiations and the many other Senators and Representatives who supported our efforts. We look forward to continuing our fight to provide Texans with the fairness, transparency and accountability they deserve when confronted with the taking of their property through eminent domain.”

Mr. McKnight of Fort Davis Texas, raises registered and commercial Herefords and crossbred cattle on ranch land in Jeff Davis, Brewster, Presidio, Reeves and Crane counties. He became a director in 1989. He graduated from Texas Christian University with a business degree. He has served as a director of the local water and soil conservation board. He is a director for the Federal Reserve Bank in El Paso. McKnight is also past president of the Highland Hereford Breeders Association and director of the Sandhills Hereford and Quarter Horse Show.

He is married to Lynda Howard McKnight, formerly of Marfa.