In a typical session of the Texas legislature, agricultural interests spend most of their time playing defense, looking for bills that would harm agriculture, most with unintended consequences. However, there are instances when bills are passed that actually help agriculture. One of the first orders of business this session was to reintroduce private property rights legislation vetoed by Governor Rick Perry after the last session was over. Joe Brown has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.
"My disappointment in Governor Perry’s veto is well known. I did not appreciate that and I’ll be fighting for something that’s just as tough. If you’re going to take someone’s land, it needs to be difficult."
Lois Kolkhorst is a state representative from Washington County. This week the Texas senate unanimously passed a constitutional amendment limiting state and local government’s power to condemn private property. If it passes the house, it will go before voters in November. State Comptroller Susan Combs believes property rights have been a big concern during this legislative session.
"Eminent Domain is big, and obviously having written the private property rights bill myself in ’95 with Teel Bivins, I feel very strongly about it, that the government should not be ripping you off. I think that bill will pass."
In 2007 twenty four hundred head of cattle were reported as stolen to the Southwest Cattle Raisers Association. In 2008 the number jumped to over sixty four hundred. Kolkhorst introduced a bill dealing with cattle theft.
"When we saw prices peak, we had a pretty big problem, in fact, there was a ring going on, they finally busted it. It was at one of the Navasota auctions that involved Nolan Ryan’s cattle from south Texas, so I told the Texas and Southwest Cattle Association that I wanted to carry this bill."
Kolkhorst says that the bill wasn’t easy to get out of committee.
"There are some members, and usually my friends on the other side of the aisle that don’t like to increase penalties, but what we see in the surrounding states are, to steal cattle is a much higher penalty. It’s only a state jail felony here."
This week the bill cleared both houses and is now on its way to the governor’s office to await his signature.
"It says if you sell, if you steal ten head of cows or more you could get a third degree felony. That’ll get your attention in class, in fact, pretty fast."
I’m Joe Brown, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.