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Missouri ends eminent domain abuse

by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

Now that Missouri’s new eminent domain legislation has been signed into law by Gov. Matt Blunt, all our lawmakers deserve a big pat on the back for doing what other states haven’t been able to accomplish. Fixing this divisive issue wasn’t pretty, or easy, but through it all a diverse, dedicated group of people representing different viewpoints did the hard work to make it happen.

Much of the credit for the success of this legislation goes to the leadership at the state Capitol, from Gov. Blunt, Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons and House Speaker Rod Jetton. Because of their support — and occasional whip cracking behind the scenes — bill sponsors Sen. Chris Koster and Rep. Steve Hobbs were able to take a really hot potato and in the end get everyone on board and help them understand that the hot potato wouldn’t burn them.

In crafting eminent domain legislation Sen. Koster and Rep. Hobbs listened to a large number of organizations with much at stake in the eminent domain issue. These groups included private property owners, agriculture organizations like the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, MoDOT, cities, counties, economic development organizations and utilities like your electric cooperative.

Finding common ground among these often diverging interest groups wasn’t easy. No one got everything they wanted. But everyone agreed they could live with the measure that finally passed. And that’s why the accomplishment of getting this bill passed and signed into law is such a victory for all involved.

I am pleased to report to you that with this new law in place those property abuses that brought this issue to a head will cease, at least in the state of Missouri. When eminent domain is used, the process will be fair for all property owners in Missouri.

At the same time your electric cooperative can continue to make the improvements needed in the public interest to ensure that when you flip the switch, the electricity you need will be there. Cooperative members have always told us reliable and affordable electricity is important. Our goal throughout this debate was to keep it that way and still ensure your property rights are protected.

As this issue was debated at the state Capitol, the negotiations were often intense. From the early meetings of the Governor’s Task Force to the floor debates in the House and Senate, the work on this measure was difficult and trying. But in the end, the result is a new law that strikes a delicate balance between property rights and Missouri’s continued economic prosperity.

Missouri’s newly passed law also has provisions that require payments to property owners for heritage and homestead value that presently no other state has. Our lawmakers took a common-sense approach to ensure the abuses that happened in the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London case will never happen in Missouri.

To all those involved in the process, we extend our sincerest thanks and a well-earned pat on the back. Thanks for accomplishing this monumental task by passing and signing into law legislation that other states will now use as a model. The Show-Me State has indeed shown the rest of the country how to reform eminent domain.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

(read more about Missouri new eminent domain law)

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

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