Legislation aimed at preventing private entities like the Grain Belt Express from using eminent domain could hit the Missouri Senate floor in Jefferson City soon.
The legislation from State Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, was the first bill sent by the House to the Senate earlier this year.
“This legislation is just to protect people’s personal property rights against a private company wanting to use eminent domain, and that’s the bottom line on what we’re working on,” Hansen says.
Grain Belt Express plans to construct and operate a high-voltage transmission line across eight northern Missouri counties: Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Clinton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls.
A Missouri Senate committee has approved legislation from State Sen. Justin Brown, R-Rolla, that bans private entities from using eminent domain to build above-ground merchant lines. Senator Brown’s bill is similar to Representative Hansen’s bill.
“I’ve requested my bill to be heard over there (Missouri Senate) in the committee here in the near future and then we’ll decide which bill we’ll maybe get on the floor in the Senate,” says Hansen.
Hansen and House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, briefed Capitol reporters Thursday in Jefferson City.
Haahr says his chamber is leading the fight to protect the property of Missouri’s farmers and ranchers. He also notes that last year’s Hansen bill wasn’t approved by the House until mid-April.
“Representative Hansen’s bill, we didn’t really start this process until after spring break of last year,” Speaker Haahr says. “This year it was the first bill out of the House, so I think that gives us a little bit more lead time.”
Last year’s bill died in the Missouri Senate in May.
The House approved Hansen’s bill in late January, on a bipartisan 118-42 vote. Five African-American House Democrats voted for the bill: State Reps. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, Raychel Proudie, D-Ferguson, Michael Person, D-Ferguson, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale.
The Grain Belt project does have support. Backers say it would generate $7 million annually in property taxes to Missouri political subdivisions.
Supporters also say it would save towns like northeast Missouri’s Hannibal about $1 million annually in electricity costs.
The Grain Belt project also cleared another legal hurdle in December, when the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District ruled in favor of multi-state power lines, rejecting the arguments of Missouri Farm Bureau and landowners.
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