by Rep. Greg Sharpe

Quite an active week in the Capitol. This week we got to hear a speech by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and hear about how he is fighting for Missourians in D.C. Aside from that, here is some of the legislation we passed this week:

House Approves Legislation to Protect Land Owners from Eminent Domain Abuse (HB 1062)

 As hundreds of concerned land owners gathered in the State Capitol this week to rally in support of their property rights, the Missouri House of Representatives took action to prevent the misuse of the state’s eminent domain law. House members approved a bill that would specify that a private entity cannot use the power of eminent domain for the purposes of constructing above-ground power lines.

The bill comes in response to the proposed Grain Belt Express transmission line that would carry power generated by wind turbines in Kansas across Missouri to other states in the Midwest and neighboring states. The 750-mile line would run across eight northern Missouri counties – Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls – and would deliver a portion of the power it transmits to utilities and customers in Missouri.

In March the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a request made by Grain Belt Express to construct the high-voltage transmission line. As a result of the decision made by the PSC, developers would have the authority to utilize the power of eminent domain to obtain easement rights from landowners who are unwilling to sell.

The legislation approved by the House would prevent the use of eminent domain for the purpose of constructing the Grain Belt Express transmission line. Supporters of the bill said it is important to prohibit private companies from using eminent domain to maximize their profits for a project that will provide little benefit for Missouri consumers. They say less than 12 percent of the electricity carried by the transmission line would be sold to Missouri consumers.

 House Speaker Elijah Haahr said about the bill, “As someone who grew up on a family farm, I care deeply about the rights of landowners. The idea of government – an unelected quasi-government body at that – telling one private owner to share their land and follow unreasonable regulations for another private company is a violation of the core beliefs this country was founded on. Private property rights are a cornerstone of our freedoms and the framers of our constitution knew from their experiences that when private property rights are not protected, our freedoms are at risk.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Signed by the Governor

HB 14 is a supplemental appropriations bill that allows for the continued current operations of Missouri state government. The bill allocates nearly $468 million, including $189 million in General Revenue, $183 million in Federal Funds, and $97 million in Other Funds. Among other things, the bill provides funding for the Time Critical Diagnosis Unit and for the state’s Medical Marijuana Program.

HB 77 fixes a problem with the school retirement system that was created by language that was passed last session. The bill adds a provision that exempts anyone that retired as a teacher under the public school retirement system who is now employed by a public community college.

Bills Sent to the Senate

HB 1094 prevents penalties for delayed payments on outstanding income tax liabilities for the 2018 tax year, as long as a taxpayer timely files their return. There may be interest assessed on outstanding income tax liabilities, provided that no interest will be assessed before May 15, 2019 and any interest already paid will be refunded. Supporters say that with the new federal tax laws and Missouri withholding issues, taxpayers’ Missouri withholding may have been reduced causing unexpected tax liability due when they file their tax returns. This bill gives a taxpayer more time to pay his or her tax bill, without hurting the fiscal year for the state.

HB 379 allows the Department of Natural Resources to award grants to preserve, protect, or restore historic county courthouses and historic county courthouse grounds. Supporters say that this bill would clarify the use of the Historic Preservation Revolving Fund to specifically allow for the use of the funds to help protect and maintain historic courthouses. The department currently issues grants for this purpose but this bill would expressly authorize the use of the fund for this purpose.

HBs 281 & 570 allows school districts to implement alternative methods of instruction to avoid make-up days. Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, the bill allows a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for up to 36 hours due to inclement weather.

HB 951 specifies that the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the county sheriff for the county in which the facility is located, the United States Department of Agriculture, and any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority have exclusive authority to inspect the grounds or facilities in Missouri used for the production of eggs, milk or other dairy products, raising of livestock, or the production or raising of dogs or other animals not used to produce any food product. Supporters say the bill would clarify which agencies have the authority to inspect certain agricultural facilities. The bill would protect Missouri farmers from other states and outside organizations attempting to gain access to the facilities without legal authority. However, it also allows for the farmer or producer to authorize other agencies to inspect, if the farmer or producer so chooses.