Fighting for Property Rights in East Texas

Two weeks ago, the RLC of Texas along with representatives of the local RLC chapter of CD36 met with Texas legislators to discuss our priority issues for the 2015 legislative agenda.

Representative David Simpson met with us and shared the bills he had filed so far for this legislative session. True to his reputation, Rep. Simpson demonstrated once again that he is a strong ally for liberty and freedom in Texas.

Rep. Simpson presented several bills, but two were of specific interest to this activist, being that I live in rural east Texas, I’m a land owner, and I’m the East Texas Regional Director for the Texas RLC.

HB 133 – Ag Property Tax Penalties
If you have your property classified as “agricultural use” in Texas, you are given a break on your ad valorem property taxes due to the idea that you are producing goods and services to increase economic prosperity. This is a good thing for property owners, as it restores back to them their wealth so they can put it into economic production, rather than feed the local bureaucracies which do not produce prosperity.

Background from Rep. Simpson’s office:

“Currently, if a property has been appraised for agricultural use and is sold or developed for another purpose, an additional tax is imposed on the land equal to five years taxes had the property not qualified for an agricultural exemption. Plus a seven percent interest on the tax, com- pounded annually, is charged to the landowner.
This penalty allows a taxing entity to recover “lost” revenue when the use changes. It also discourages development.”

In other words, if you as a “free” property owner wish to change your business such that you no longer qualify for your Ag exemptions, or you choose to sell your property, there will be back-taxes owed. Five years worth, plus interest.

Rep. Simpson believes this is an infringement upon personal liberty to do with one’s property what you wish. It locks the property owner into something that he may have inherited and robs him of his prosperity if he chooses to sell his property, as he will likely have to lower his asking price due to the local bureaucracy’s taxes.

I agree with Rep. Simpson and will be working with the Texas RLC to fight for this bill, which seeks to limit local government encroachment into personal property rights via the tax code and attempts to give back some freedom to pursue one’s own ends economically.

HB 632 – Regional Water Planning
In Texas, local water districts are in charge of managing their own water resources. All of these districts are overseen by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). As with any bureaucracy, the TWDB and local water districts are not immune to political lobbying and manipulation. Sometimes rural regions with rich natural resources are targeted by higher populace regions with more political sway. They are asked to give up those resources, by force, to others rather than allowing the two districts negotiate and come to free, mutually beneficial economic arrangements. In fact, that is exactly what is occurring in the Marvin Nichols project.

Background from Rep. Simpson’s office:

“The State Water Plan is based upon regional water planning groups that adopt plans for each region. However, when DFW’s Region C plan included the construction of the Marvin Nichols Reservoir in northeast Texas without the consent of Region D, a district court ruled that the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) must resolve the conflict. And it did so by approving Region C’s admitted and grossly inadequate quantification of the deleterious effects on Region D’s environment and economy and by directing Region D to remove its objections.

The issue is that Region C has more political clout than Region D to which the TWDB has succumbed at the expense of representative government and East Texans.”

Region C (DFW) is seeking to have the state force Region D (northeast Texas including Longview, Texarkana, and Greenville) to remove its objections to the building of the reservoir. Instead of purchasing the resources through some mutual trade agreement, they are seeking to use the force of government to take the resources.

Often it is much easier to persuade government officials to force your neighbors to give up their property than to negotiate with your neighbors in a free market. These sorts “persuasions” often include questionable ethics which should have no place in a free and moral society. Those who operate in these ways should be ashamed. Conservatives should stand against these tactics and stand up for their neighbors who are being abused and bullied.

The proposed bill will amend the Water Code to require a two-thirds majority of regional planing members for that area to consent. This will prevent the TWDB from being declared the sole arbiter of disputes between water districts and allow those districts to make their own decisions regarding the regions they represent. This will lead to greater freedom and prosperity as people are allowed to make decisions that are best for their regions and not encourage political and bureaucratic bullying that redistributes the wealth via eminent domain confiscation of private property.

We urge you to support both of these bills and to call your representatives and other Texas legislators to urge them to support these bills.

We will update this page as soon as we have more information and calls-to-action to contact your legislators.

If you’re interested in reading more on these bills, please refer to the following summary sheets from Rep. Simpson’s office:

Wes Thomas, East Texas Regional Director for the Texas RLC

Cross posted from