The Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City will likely be packed on Tuesday, when the House is expected to vote on Grain Belt-related legislation.
State Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, has filed legislation which says no private entity has the power of eminent domain for the purposes of building above-ground merchant lines. Eminent domain involves the power of the government to take private property and convert it to public use.
Hansen says a rally is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Statehouse in support of his bill.
The House General Laws Committee has approved Hansen’s bill by a 9-4 vote.
Hansen tells Missourinet he’s expecting a Tuesday afternoon House voice vote, and expects it to receive a final vote on Thursday. He says he’s hopeful it will pass on both days.
Hansen’s House Bill 1062 is moving quickly through the process. It was introduced on February 26, in response to the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project in northern Missouri.
The Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) announced in March that it has approved Grain Belt’s request to construct, own, operate and manage a high-voltage transmission line through eight northern Missouri counties.
Those counties are Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls.
Hansen’s sprawling northeast Missouri district includes Monroe and Ralls counties.
The PSC granted Grain Belt what is known as a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN), determining that there is a need for the service. The PSC also determined that Grain Belt’s proposal is economically feasible and that the service promotes the public interest.
Opponents of Hansen’s bill say the Grain Belt project will generate millions of dollars in immediate tax revenue, which they say is needed in north Missouri.
Representative Hansen says a Tuesday afternoon rally is planned at the Missouri Capitol in support of his legislation. Tuesday’s 2 pm rally will take place in the Capitol Rotunda.
Hansen tells Missourinet that he’s hoping for 500 to 1,000 landowners at the rally. He says the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Corn Growers Association and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association will be participating.
Supporters of Hansen’s bill say it will prohibit private companies from using the state power of eminent domain in order to maximize their own profits, while providing little or no benefit to Missourians.
Bill supporters say less than 12 percent of the Grain Belt’s electricity will be sold to Missouri consumers.
Missouri Farm Bureau’s Todd Hays, Brent Hoerr with the Missouri Corn Growers Association, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and the Missouri Landowners Alliance were among groups testifying for Hansen’s bill.
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst says there are about 500 property owners along the proposed route.
Hoerr is from northeast Missouri’s Palmyra.
Bill opponents include the Rolla Municipal Utilities and city officials from at least ten communities across the state.
Bill opponents say the Grain Belt project will generate $12.8 million in immediate tax revenue, and will result in $7 million annually in property taxes to Missouri political subdivisions.
Opponents also say about 500 megawatts of power will be sold to Missouri municipal utilities and then to end users at a low cost. They say many small communities would see significant savings on electricity costs.
Rodney Bourne of Rolla Municipal Utilities, Odessa city administrator Nici Wilson, Shelbina city superintendent Dennis Klusmeyer and the Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities were among those who testified against Hansen’s bill.
House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, issued a statement earlier this month, when Hansen’s bill was heard in committee. Speaker Haahr supports Hansen’s legislation.
“The legislation the House is moving forward is vital for many Missourians who otherwise would be forced to allow unreasonable restrictions on their family farms, damaging the value of their land and taking away their private property rights,” Haahr’s statement read, in part.
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State Senator Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, says many state departments are using money saved from vacant jobs on other things. Hoskins, a Senate Appropriations Committee member, calls the tactic a slush fund.
“It would be almost like giving your managers a blank check and say ‘Hey, you said you needed 200 employees in this department. You only hired 150 and you kept the funding for the other 50 that we were going to give you to hire those employees and used it for whatever you wanted to,’” Hoskins explains.
During Senate floor debate, Hoskins says the committee has identified more than 1,000 state positions unfilled for six months to several years. He says the departments need to be upfront with lawmakers and taxpayers.
“We’re being hoodwinked,” he says. “All we’re asking for is some transparency.”
He says some departments might contract out the unfilled jobs, but those positions need to be in a different part of the budget.
He plans to question agencies about this tactic during the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee’s budget hearing on Tuesday.
The proposed state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July is about $30 billion.
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St. Louis alderman Brandon Bosley wants Governor Mike Parson to send Missouri National Guard soldiers to his city to fight crime. Parson tells Missourinet affiliate KSSZ in Columbia that’s not going to happen.
“I’ve had the pleasure of serving in the military as a military policeman in my career and also on the law enforcement side for 22 years. Those are two totally different functions of government,” he says. “I get the frustration, but that’s not the function of the (National) Guard.”
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bosley says his strategy is partially motivated because of a large shortage of St. Louis police officers. Bosley goes on to say we are not in Afghanistan and the level of violent crime there is not normal.
“At the end of the day, they’ve got to figure out some solutions up there in their own neighborhoods. We’re here to assist wherever we can but we can’t take over the law enforcement jobs in St. Louis,” says Parson.
During a press conference this week in St. Louis about violent crime, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Bosley rightly points out that something must be done but Schmitt says the decision is up to the governor. In January, Schmitt launched a collaboration between his office and Missouri’s U.S. Attorney’s Offices to prosecute more violent crime cases. On Thursday, five Assistant U.S. Attorneys were sworn into office to help with the heavy caseload in the St. Louis region.
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