Stricter eminent domain bill gains rural support: Columbia (MO) Missourian, 10/14/05

The bill would stop private property from being taken for private gain

By Kathryn Buschman

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 being 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-Palmyra. “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. Matt Blunt created the Missouri Task Force on 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 Oct. 27.

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

Task force member Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, said it was obvious that many people did not read the entire report the task force submitted to the governor 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,” Hobbs said.

Henke said the task force also 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, where the state can condemn private property for public use.

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 had a power company run 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.

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