House Approves Legislation to Protect Land Owners from Eminent Domain Abuse (HB 1062)
As hundreds of concerned land owners gathered in the State Capitol this week to rally in support of their property rights, the Missouri House of Representatives took action to prevent the misuse of the state’s eminent domain law. House members approved a bill that would specify that a private entity cannot use the power of eminent domain for the purposes of constructing above-ground power lines.
The bill comes in response to the proposed Grain Belt Express transmission line that would carry power generated by wind turbines in Kansas across Missouri to other states in the Midwest and neighboring states. The 750-mile line would run across eight northern Missouri counties – Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls – and would deliver a portion of the power it transmits to utilities and customers in Missouri.
In March the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a request made by Grain Belt Express to construct the high-voltage transmission line. As a result of the decision made by the PSC, developers would have the authority to utilize the power of eminent domain to obtain easement rights from landowners who are unwilling to sell.
The legislation approved by the House would prevent the use of eminent domain for the purpose of constructing the Grain Belt Express transmission line. Supporters of the bill said it is important to prohibit private companies from using eminent domain to maximize their profits for a project that will provide little benefit for Missouri consumers. They say less than 12 percent of the electricity carried by the transmission line would be sold to Missouri consumers.
As the sponsor of the bill told his colleagues, “The issue here is this is a private company wanting to use private property for private profit.”
House Speaker Elijah Haahr said about the bill, “As someone who grew up on a family farm, I care deeply about the rights of landowners. The idea of government – an unelected quasi-government body at that – telling one private owner to share their land and follow unreasonable regulations for another private company is a violation of the core beliefs this country was founded on. Private property rights are a cornerstone of our freedoms and the framers of our constitution knew from their experiences that when private property rights are not protected, our freedoms are at risk.”
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
House Approves Bill to Improve License Renewal Process (HB 679)
Members of the Missouri House have approved legislation that would make it easier for residents to renew a driver’s license or a motor vehicle license. The legislation also would allow drivers to obtain a secure digital driver’s license in addition to the physical card-based license.
The bill would authorize the Missouri Department of Revenue to design and implement a remote driver’s license renewal system that would be accessed through the department’s Internet website, or through self-service kiosks that would be available at one or more locations within the state. Missourians would also be able to use the kiosks to renew their motor vehicle license just as they currently can through the department’s website. This option would be available to residents who live in a county where property tax records are kept online.
The bill’s sponsor said the plan would be to roll out a handful of kiosks in select locations initially as a pilot project. If the kiosks prove successful and cost efficient, they would then be made available in more fee offices throughout the state. The expansion of the self-service kiosks would be subject to appropriation. Supporters say the change would help streamline services offered by the department and allow consumers to use the kiosks so they can get renewals completed faster.
Under the bill, a Missourian who opts to renew a driver’s license remotely would be exempted from vision and road sign tests. Applicants who have applied in-person and received a driver’s license would be able to remotely apply for one three-year or one six-year renewal. The bill would require the department to have a remote renewal system in place by January 1, 2021.
The bill also authorizes the department to design a secure digital driver’s license program that allows applicants to obtain a digital version of their license in addition to the physical card-based driver’s license. The bill’s sponsor said the bill will give Missourians the option to have an electronic license on their phone or mobile device that works in the same way as their current license for all applications. He noted that users would pay an additional fee to obtain the electronic version.
The bill is now under consideration by the Senate.
Lawmakers Approve Bill to Crack Down on Carjackers (HB 966)
Members of the Missouri House gave approval this week to legislation that would create and define the crime of carjacking. Supporters say the bill would give consistency and clarity to Missouri law.
Proponents of the bill say it is necessary because Missouri does not currently have a law for prosecutors to charge vehicle hijacking under. Instead, prosecutors have to charge under a similar offense, such as robbery or theft. Supporters say carjacking has become an epidemic that needs to be addressed. They note that St. Louis had 350 carjackings in 2018.
The bill’s sponsor said, “If you are carjacked the prosecutor has to find some other crime to stuff it under – robbery, stealing, maybe assault. That’s crazy and it leads to a lot of inconsistency.” He added, “I’ll tell you what’s even crazier is if someone attempts to carjack you, they fail, what do you charge them with? I don’t even know. We have to get real creative. We don’t have an actual statute that would easily charge attempted carjacking.”
The bill creates the offense of “vehicle hijacking.” It would be considered a “dangerous felony,” and would carry a penalty between 5 and 15 years. If the crime is committed with the use of a weapon, if a victim is seriously injured, or if one of the victims is a child or “special victim,” the crime would be a class A felony with a penalty of 10 to 30 years, or life.
The sponsor said his bill would make the penalty for an armed carjacking very similar to that for first-degree robbery, which is comparable to the charges faced by people who commit carjackings now.
The sponsor said, “Here’s the message I want to send. You carjack in the State of Missouri and you use a deadly weapon or threaten to use a deadly weapon, you’re going away. I think we send a very, very clear message. Carjacking will not be tolerated in the State of Missouri.”
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Signed by the Governor
HB 14 is a supplemental appropriations bill that allows for the continued current operations of Missouri state government. The bill allocates nearly $468 million, including $189 million in General Revenue, $183 million in Federal Funds, and $97 million in Other Funds. Among other things, the bill provides funding for the Time Critical Diagnosis Unit and for the state’s Medical Marijuana Program.
HB 77 fixes a problem with the school retirement system that was created by language that was passed last session. The bill adds a provision that exempts anyone that retired as a teacher under the public school retirement system who is now employed by a public community college.
Bills Sent to the Senate
HB 1094 prevents penalties for delayed payments on outstanding income tax liabilities for the 2018 tax year, as long as a taxpayer timely files their return. There may be interest assessed on outstanding income tax liabilities, provided that no interest will be assessed before May 15, 2019 and any interest already paid will be refunded. Supporters say that with the new federal tax laws and Missouri withholding issues, taxpayers’ Missouri withholding may have been reduced causing unexpected tax liability due when they file their tax returns. This bill gives a taxpayer more time to pay his or her tax bill, without hurting the fiscal year for the state.
HB 301 requires certified nursing assistant training programs to be offered at skilled nursing or intermediate care facility units in Missouri veterans homes and hospitals. It also requires advanced practice nurses (APRNs) to be licensed by the Missouri Board of Nursing and sets out the requirements for that licensure. Supporters say the bill will allow the Board of Nursing to give APRNs a separate licensure, instead of just a document of recognition, which will allow the board to have better oversight and discipline for APRNs. They say the bill will streamline and simplify APRN licensure.
HB 379 allows the Department of Natural Resources to award grants to preserve, protect, or restore historic county courthouses and historic county courthouse grounds. Supporters say that this bill would clarify the use of the Historic Preservation Revolving Fund to specifically allow for the use of the funds to help protect and maintain historic courthouses. The department currently issues grants for this purpose but this bill would expressly authorize the use of the fund for this purpose.
HB 349 provides that the practices of cosmetology and barbering do not include shampooing. Supporters say the bill will allow shampooists to practice without having to get a full cosmetology license, which is a hardship to acquire for someone who isn’t going to be practicing full cosmetology.
HB 338 designates May 26th of each year as “Battle of St. Louis Memorial Day” to commemorate the only battle of the American Revolution fought in Missouri. Supporters say it is important to recognize that Missouri had a role in the American Revolution and bring greater recognition to the painting in the Capitol that also commemorates this battle.
HB 816 allows an embalming apprentice to continue to be employed by the funeral establishment where the apprenticeship took place, for up to six months after the apprentice has completed the apprenticeship program but has not yet completed the examination or other requirements of licensure. Supporters say the bill will prevent hardships on workers who would otherwise have to find another source of income while they are taking their examination.
HB 932 allows prosecuting attorneys to develop multidisciplinary adult protection teams that protect elderly and other dependent persons from abuse. Supporters say that most of the things discussed in this bill are being done which is why the fiscal note indicates no cost. However, this bill addresses the practices, procedures and coordination of the activities for these teams and all the people and agencies involved. This legislation was modeled on best practices from other states and what we know works well in Missouri and the sponsor is bringing this bill forward to protect our most vulnerable elderly population.
HB 758 adds provisions relating to hospital inspections. Supporters say that this bill will ensure that there are no conflicts of interest between the department and the hospitals that they regulate and that the inspections will be unbiased and trustworthy. The bill also establishes the “Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act.” Supporters say this provision will give nursing homes the protection they need to begin experimenting with electronic monitoring to give families peace of mind that their loved ones are being appropriately tended in the facility.
HB 191 designates portions of specified State Highways as a Memorial Highway. It would designate a portion of Highway E in Lafayette County as the “Firefighter Jeff Sanders Memorial Highway.” The bill also designates a portion of State Highway 6 in Buchanan County as the “Firefighter Travis Owens Memorial Highway.” Additionally, it designates a portion of State Highway A in St. Charles County as the “Ralph Barrale Memorial Highway.”
HB 937 allows legislative liaisons, who are appointed to communicate between state agencies and departments and members of the General Assembly, to be exempt from the definition of “legislative lobbyist” under state law. Supporters say that the bill will clarify the responsibility of members and employees of the General Assembly and ensure that lobbyist principals are well-defined entities.
HB 930 allows the Commissioner of Administration to hold a reverse auction to procure merchandise, supplies, raw materials, or finished goods if price is the primary factor in evaluating bids. Supporters say reverse auctions happen in the private sector and would be a big money saver for the state.
HB 769 removes the requirement for the attorney general to reside in Jefferson City. Supporters say the bill removes an obsolete residency requirement that does not apply to any other statewide elected officials.
HB 1057 changes provisions relating to infection control data reporting. Supporters say the bill eliminates needless regulation and gets rid of duplicate or triplicate reporting requirements. This bill does not make it more difficult for anyone to access the data needed.
HB 186 provides that a person who is injured by a product has 10 years after the sale or lease of the product to bring a suit for damages. Supporters say there needs to be certainty for manufacturers and distributors. They note that the United States Supreme Court has held that statutes of repose are legitimate limitations on bringing claims. They say Missouri defendants should be free from worry about liability after a certain amount of time has passed.
HB 1206 would modernize the bidding process for contracts for private entities to operate facilities or supply services on a state park. Supporters say it would allow the Department of Natural Resources to provide park visitors with more options for services through short-term commercial use permits.
HBs 281 & 570 allows school districts to implement alternative methods of instruction to avoid make-up days. Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, the bill allows a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for up to 36 hours due to inclement weather.
HB 749 creates the “Towing Task Force” to make recommendations on overcharges, customer complaints, and the process for nonconsensual towing used by law enforcement. Supporters say the bill will help regulate overcharging in the towing industry. The task force outlined in the bill will give recommendations and a framework to help eliminate price gouging.
HB 1151 removes an exemption from registration on the Sexual Offender Registry when a registrant is no longer required to register and his or her name must be removed from the registry under the provisions. The bill also removes sexual misconduct involving a child under Section 566.083, if it is a first offense and the punishment is less than one year, from Tier I of the registry. Supporters say the legislation is meant to correct and clarify language regarding the registration of sexual offenders that was passed last year.
HB 756 requires health care professionals to utilize the process outlined in statute for claims for charges for unanticipated out-of-network care. Supporters say the bill is necessary for transparency purposes. If you go to a hospital that is in your health care plan then everything should be treated like in-network for your health insurance coverage. People often get bills for out of network from physicians that work in the hospital and this is a lot more expensive.
HB 943 allows the Board of Accountancy within the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration to obtain information regarding peer review from any approved American Institute for Certified Public Accountants peer review program. Supporters say the bill modernizes state law to reflect current standards by allowing the board to obtain information from firms that provide reviews or audits for the public.
HB 951 specifies that the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the county sheriff for the county in which the facility is located, the United States Department of Agriculture, and any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority have exclusive authority to inspect the grounds or facilities in Missouri used for the production of eggs, milk or other dairy products, raising of livestock, or the production or raising of dogs or other animals not used to produce any food product. Supporters say the bill would clarify which agencies have the authority to inspect certain agricultural facilities. The bill would protect Missouri farmers from other states and outside organizations attempting to gain access to the facilities without legal authority. However, it also allows for the farmer or producer to authorize other agencies to inspect, if the farmer or producer so chooses.