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Rural Democrats Annouce Eminent Domain Bill

October 13, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

Jefferson City- Rural Missouri democrats announced a bill Thursday that would prohibit the state from taking private land for private development. The group said the governor's task force on eminent domain was failing to fully consider the needs of rural Missourians.

The Private Property Protection Act would prohibit private property to be taken for private gain. The bill would not stop the traditional use of eminent domain to take land for public use such as schools and roads.

"Eminent domain is a tremendous power and using it for something like property for a private developer is wrong," said Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Marion. "I think it is very clear that the state has the power to stop something like that and that is what [we] want to do."

Gov. Blunt created the Missouri Task Force of Eminent Domain in June to study the use of eminent domain in the state and to recommend specific legislation to be considered in the upcoming legislative session. The task force will meet again on Oct. 27.

Rep. Wayne Henke, D-Lincoln, said the task force's preliminary proposals are inadequate.

Task force member Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, said it was obvious that a lot of people did not read the entire report the task force submitted to the governor on Oct. 1.

"These are topics that have been brought to us that we are going to consider, they are not recommendations, they are topics we will be considering."

Henke also said the task force did not hear from enough people in rural areas facing eminent domain issues.

At Thursday's meeting, the task force heard testimony from several farmers. Some farmers complained about the condemnation process.

Byron Baker, whose farm has been in his family since 1856, said companies can't negotiate in good faith when they know they have the power of condemnation.

"That is giving special interest privileges to private owners of a company-over the rights of a private land owner," Baker said, "This is something I don't think our founding fathers would have approved of."

Farmer Loren Jensen from Macon said a power company ran a transmission line through part of his property. Jensen said farmers are at a disadvantage because a lot of them don't have the money to hire attorneys.

"If a piece of ground here is worth five thousand dollars an acre, don't go down the road and tell the next guy his is only worth one thousand, there has to be some happy meeting place in the middle somewhere," Jensen said.