CS/HB 519 (Grant, J.) and CS/SB 1766 (Lee) open the door for an explosion of potential lawsuits against cities by making one-sided changes to the Bert J. Harris Act and leaving taxpayers to pay the price. The Harris Act gives landowners a way to seek compensation when a local government takes action that impacts the use/potential use of their property. The Harris Act is detailed and fair. It allows local governments to negotiate with property owners who are filing a claim and calls on courts to consider the unique conditions of each claim.
CS/HB 519 was amended on the House floor to remove problematic provisions dealing with “similarily situated” from the bill. Additionally the amendment removed provisions allowing for business damages to be included in a Bert Harris claim. The amendment modified current law as it relates to attorney fees for Harris claims. The amended version would no longer allow courts to consider pre-suit settlement offers that would have resolved a claim when awarding attorney fees to the property owner. The bill also reduces the pre-suit notice period from 150 days to 90 days and includes a provision that addresses the “ripeness” of claims by allowing a property owner to bring a claim prior to being officially denied a permit. CS/HB 519 is awaiting action by the full House.
CS/SB 1766 was substantially amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Like the House companion, the Senate bill no longer contains the similarly situated concept. It no longer has any provisions affecting how attorney fees are determined, nor does it open the door to include business damages as part of any Harris claim. Similar to the House bill, CS/SB 1766 reduces the presuit timeframe to respond to claims from 150 days to 90 days and a provision that address the “ripeness” of claims by allowing a property owner to bring a claim prior to being officially denied a permit. (Cruz)