JEFFERSON CITY - A House committee passed a bill that would extend state universities' ability to sell parts of land without General Assembly approval.
The law that gives them this ability is set to expire in 2011 but would be pushed back to August 2017 under the bill.
This bill, approved by the House Public Institutions Committee, also deals with other land owned by the state, which can be sold by the governor.
Many times the state is gifted land to use for a particular purpose, such as to be used as a park or for high school athletics. However, when the land is sold, there is a question of whether these agreements need to be upheld.
For example, land that is a part of the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center has trails on it for public use. Committee member Rep. Linda Fischer, D-Bonne Terre, asked what would happen to these trails that were funded through taxpayer dollars.
In addition, this piece of land was valued much lower when compared to current values of nearby property, Fischer said. It was valued around $250,000, according to some documentation Fischer cited.
She said she is somewhat familiar with the land value in the area and that the current estimate seemed "way off," as the county is a growing area.
Fischer suggested the property needs to be appraised, and that it should be sold for a "fair market value." She also mentioned the importance of making sure every potential buyer who is interested the land has an equal opportunity to bid.
"We need to not limit it to just one entity," she said. "It needs to go out publicly to anybody. If it's for sale, it's for sale. It's not just for sale to one."
Committee members discussed the possibility of using the revenue from state-owned land to fund programs hurt by cuts in the state's budget, but took no action on the idea.
The sale of the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center, located in Farmington, is one of nine pieces of state property that could be sold to balance the budget for fiscal year 2011, Budget Director Linda Luebbering said. The sale is contingent upon the passage of legislation giving the governor the authority to do so.
The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.
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