Hansen: bill blocks eminent domain for power line project

Jim Hansen.

Editor's Note: This "Capitol Report" from Pike County's representative in the Missouri House Jim Hansen (R-Frankford) was issued on Thursday, Jan. 23.

The General Assembly again convened for a joint session in the House Chamber as lawmakers gathered to receive the 2020 State of the Judiciary address. Members of the House and Senate listened to Missouri Chief Justice George W. Draper outline the successes of the court system and the areas where the court and the legislature have worked well together to improve the justice system. Draper also noted that 2020 marks the bicentennial for the Missouri Supreme Court.

Draper pointed out that Missouri has been at the national forefront in the fight against drug addiction. He noted that the legislature passed the first treatment court legislation in 1998 and in recent years lawmakers have passed bills to expand the full spectrum of treatment court services.

Draper said, “Together we have built a strong foundation from which our state can continue to fight the substance abuse crisis on multiple fronts – alcohol, opioids and, as health officials have forecast, another rise in methamphetamine use.”

Draper concluded his speech by saying, “When Missourians 200 years from now look back upon this time, and examine all our works, reforms, and accomplishments, I hope they will find us to have been leaders, innovators, collaborators who left our state greater than we found it and fully supported those who toiled in and built cooperation among our co-equal branches of government.”

House Members Act to Protect Property Owners from Eminent Domain Abuse (HB 2033)

The members of the Missouri House of Representatives have once again stood in defense of the rights of property owners. Just as they did during the 2019 session, lawmakers approved a bill specifying 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 780-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.

Last year the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a request made by Grain Belt Express to construct the high-voltage transmission line. The PSC’s decision was appealed but the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District ruled in favor of the project in December of 2019. As a result, 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.

The sponsor of the bill said, “The line is designed to deliver electricity to the east coast and doesn’t benefit all citizens of Missouri. The point is that this entity is going to benefit from eminent domain more than the general public.”

The bill has been perfected and now requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration. I sponsored this legislation in 2019. It passed out of the house with bipartisan support and was heard in the senate. Unfortunately, it did not receive a vote due to being filibustered. I will continue my fight to protect the personal property rights of my constituents in Monroe and Ralls County, and in the six other counties being impacted by this project.

There have been two companion bills filed in the Senate by Senators Brown and O’Laughlin. Respectively, they filed SB 597 and SB 604 earlier this year. I appreciate their support and look forward to them being strong advocates for this legislation.

As always, it is an honor to serve as your state representative, and feel free to contact our office if we can be of service.

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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