FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 03/23/2015
Murr Presents Two More Bills to Enhance Private Property Rights
Just prior to the final deadline for new legislation to be filed in the 84th Legislative Session, Representative Andrew Murr offered two more bills which, if passed, will enhance private property rights in District 53 and across the state.
House Bill 2892 will give property owners a seat at the table along with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the General Land Office and other state agencies when it comes to determining if a watercourse is considered "navigable." The distinction is critical since a navigable waterway belongs to the people of Texas, while a non-navigable waterway is considered private property.
Under current law, many creeks, springs and draws, dry or not, that run through private property are not classified, so if a dispute occurs between a land owner and member of the public who wishes to cross through the property, or even camp overnight on the creek bed, a local law enforcement official is left to determine if the waterway is navigable or not. Many landowners have an expectation of privacy, either through owning their property for generations or purchasing it recently.
"Growing up and living on a ranch, I know first-hand how important this issue is to a lot of ranchers, farmers and landowners," Murr explained. "Right now, a state agency can determine navigability without any input from the people who know the land the best -- the landowners themselves. This bill will give notice to any potentially affected property owners and provide them a hearing in which they can participate before any finding is made that a portion of their property constitutes a 'navigable stream.'" In addition, HB 2892 requires the state to perform a gradient boundary survey, a type of survey generally considered to be the best way to ascertain the boundary between private property and any state land. "Every landowner should receive notice when the state is considering making a designation that could affect his or her property, and have an opportunity to raise issue with that finding," Murr noted.
The second bill, House Bill 3057, is aimed at protecting private property from a different kind of threat -- predatory animals. Under this legislation, $500,000 per year that is already collected by the existing sporting goods sales tax would be dedicated to hunting and trapping animals which pose a threat to people and property, such as coyotes, mountain lions and feral hogs, or those which do irreparable harm to the land, such as prairie dogs, rats and other rodents.
The funds would be distributed through a grant program administered by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service in conjunction with Texas Parks & Wildlife. Eligible grant applicants would include local governments and qualified non-profit entities. "While our state has made some gains in combatting problems caused by rodents and predatory animals, this bill would allow greater local participation by folks who know what's best for their communities," said Murr.
Murr concluded, "I'm pleased to have been able to introduce these two bills before the deadline. In my mind, the right to own and use our property is one of the most sacred rights as Texans, and the legislature should do everything in its power to strengthen it and ensure that it is never infringed upon."
Representative Murr has authored 16 total pieces of legislation during his first term in the legislature and has joint or co-authored 15 bills to date. For a list of all of Representative Murr's bills, or to read the specific text of legislation, please visit http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/.