Harris files legislation to protect private property owners against HSR

Corsicana Daily Sun

February 9, 2019

State Representative HD8 Cody Harris signs Property Rights legislation to protect against High Speed Rail

State Representative Cody Harris (R-HD8) filed four pieces of legislation Tuesday, February 5 to protect private property owners against the proposed high-speed rail project that would cut through sections of House District 8 which includes Navarro, Anderson, Freestone, and Hill counties.

The project has received stiff opposition over concerns about eminent domain and the overall financial viability of the project.

Harris met with hundreds of concerned landowners last year and pledged to take action in the legislature.

The four bills filed by Harris are meant to strengthen protections for private property owners while discouraging the project from moving forward.  Tuesday’s actions were just the first step in a coordinated effort among rural legislators who have vowed to push back against the project.

“This legislation aims to uphold my commitment to protecting private property owners and discouraging the high speed rail project from moving forward,” Harris said.  “We’ve told them over and over that we don’t want it, but they haven’t listened.  The foreign investors behind the project are threatening to seize family farms and physically divide the state of Texas.  We have an uphill fight, but I’m committed to doing everything in my power to protect the concerned citizens of my district.”

Harris’ legislation received praise from Texans Against High-Speed Rail, a non-profit organization that has been fighting the project for the last two years.

“Texans Against High-Speed Rail is proud to work closely with Representative Harris to move these bills forward,: said Kyle Workman, the group’s executive director.  “For too long, this proposed project has weighed heavily on thousands of Texans.  We appreciate Representative Harris’ commitment, not only to his constituents, but all Texans to fight against high-speed rail and for these vitally important measures.”

Texas Central, developers of the high-speed train, responded Friday afternoon:

“We look forward to working with the legislature this session.  We share elected officials’ concerns for property rights and are committed to following state law that allows limited eminent domain authority for efforts that provide for a public good and a strong economy.  The Texas Constitution and legislative statutes have long granted this authority to railroads, pipelines, electrical lines, and other industries.  Any use of this legal authority would be a last resort and we are working collaboratively in a personalized fashion with landowners to that and every day.”

The four pieces of legislation Harris is authoring are:

HB 1367 – Relating to the acquisition and disposition of real property intended for high-speed rail projects.

  • This bill protects private property rights by specifying that a private entity does not have the power of eminent domain for the purpose of developing or operating a high-speed rail project.

HB 1368 – Relating to option contracts to acquire real property for high-speed rail projects.

  • This bill will void any high-speed rail option contracts held by a high-speed rail entity upon a bankruptcy initiated by or against the entity.

HB 1369 – Relating to the purchase of necessary real property for the construction of a high-speed rail project.

  • The financial feasibility of the HSR is already highly questionable and we know they do not have the power of eminent domain.  This bill prohibits the HSR from beginning any construction until they have acquired all of the property necessary to complete the project.

HB 1370 – Relating to the creation of a joint-interim committee on high-speed rail development.

  • The purpose of this bill is to put up more roadblocks on the HSR by evaluating the feasibility of creating a statewide high-speed rail initiative through a public-private partnership.
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