HBA-CBW, CMT C.S.H.B. 340 77(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisC.S.H.B. 340 By: Keffer Land & Resource Management 4/16/2001 Committee Report (Substituted) BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Currently, most of the county maintained roads in Eastland County, and other rural West Texas counties, were never dedicated to the public or conveyed to the county. Most have been used by the public and maintained by the county for many years, in spite of the fact that there is nothing of record in the minutes of the commissioners court or the deed records to evidence the public's right of access across the land or the county's right or duty to maintain the roads. There has been confusion as to which roads are truly county roads for the purpose of determining legal access. Title companies, surveyors, attorneys, realtors, and lenders have all confronted this issue over the past few years, as well as the counties themselves. The legislature passed a statute that delineated the procedures by which a county having a population of 50,000 or less could acquire a public interest in a private road. It may be an economic burden for most rural counties to undertake the task of determining the identity of and contacting each owner along every country lane. C.S.H.B. 340 authorizes the commissioners court of a county to adopt a proposed county road map, including in such map all roads in which the county claims a public interest pursuant to current statutes. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS C.S.H.B. 340 amends the Transportation Code to authorize the commissioners court of a county to propose a county road map that includes each road that the county claims a public interest in as a result of purchase, condemnation, dedication, a court's final judgment of adverse possession, or having continuously maintained the road with public funds since September 1, 1981. The bill requires a commissioners court that proposes a county road map to hold a public meeting at which a person asserting a private right, title, or interest in a road may appear before the commissioners court to protest the county's claim in the road. The bill provides that a person asserting a private right, title, or interest in a road may also file a written protest with the county judge at any time before the public meeting. The bill requires the commissioners court to appoint a jury of view consisting of five property owners to determine, by a majority vote after a public hearing, the validity of a protest and establishes that the determination of the jury of view is binding on the commissioners court. The bill sets forth provisions for notifying the public of the meeting, display of the proposed map at the meeting, and the subsequent formal adoption of the map by the commissioners court. The county clerk is required to keep a county road map as adopted in a place accessible to the public. The failure to include on a county road map any road in which the county has previously acquired a public interest in does not affect the status of the omitted road. A county road map adopted is conclusive evidence of the public's right of access to a road included on the map, and the county's authority to spend public money to maintain the road. The bill authorizes a person asserting a private right, title, or interest in a road to contest the inclusion of a road in the county road map by filing suit in a district court in the county in which the road is located within a specified time period. The bill requires the commissioners court to include a notice of its intention to consider adoption of the county road map with the ad valorem tax statements for the year before the adoption of a county road map and requires the commissioners court to accept and file the warranty deed if a property owner tenders a warranty deed to the county for property included in the right-of-way of a county road. EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001. COMPARISON OF ORIGINAL TO SUBSTITUTE C.S.H.B. 340 differs from the original bill by authorizing the commissioners court to include each road in which the county claims a public interest as a result of having continuously maintained the road with public funds beginning before September 1, 1981, rather than September 1, 1956. The substitute authorizes a person to file a written protest to a county's claim to a road, requires the commissioners court to appoint a jury of view to determine the validity of the protest, and provides that the determination of the jury of view is binding on the commissioners court. The substitute set forth provisions requiring the commissioners court to include a notice of its intention regarding the adoption of a county road map with ad valorem tax statements and requires that the commissioners court accept and file the warranty deed from a property owner under certain conditions. The substitute removes the provision regarding the burden of proof necessary for a person to prevail in a suit contesting the inclusion of a road.