West Lake buyout bill dies in the House
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal’s crusade to provide funding for the buyout of homes in Spanish Village came to an end on the final day of session as SB 22 died in the Senate on a 65-79 vote.
After Rep. Mark Matthiesen failed to amend the bill to remove a provision of the committee substitute that would fund the buyout with the sale of state land in Oregon County. Rep. Robert Ross added the amendment in committee as part of his longstanding opposition to Gov. Jay Mixon’s purchase of the land last year using money from the ASARCO settlement.
“Nixon ignored people who needed help,” Ross said, adding he used money to “build a monument to himself” in Oregon County. “This was meant to help people and our previous governor ignored the needs of the people.”
Matthiesen’s amendment failed 60-82, and when that happened, he lost Democratic support for the amendment. Many Democrats voted no, and others voted present with just a handful voting in favor of the bill.
“This side of the aisle,” Matthiesen said, gesturing to the Democrats shortly after the debate, “decided on park land over people. They like their parks. I like parks too… but you can’t put money back to people.”
For Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition of the Environment, who has long supported the buyout and opposed selling off the land in oregon County, it was a difficult position to be in. Ultimately, he could not sign off on the bill with Ross’ amendment attached.
“It’s really unfortunate that Rep. Ross continues to try to find any sort of way to attach sale of the land Gov. Nixon purchased to almost anything he can find that’s somewhat relevant,” Smith said.
Several Republicans also opposed the measure. Rep. Jay Barnes said it would be an intrusion into an issue beyond the reach of the legislature. He opposed Matthiesen’s amendment, which would also define certain levels of thorium isotopes as contamination, and the opposed the bill.
“This is not a courtroom, this is not an executive agency, it is beyond what we are supposed to do under our constitutional powers,” Barnes said. “We don’t know the level of danger this element creates. What this amendment does is that we, non-scientists are declaring homes to be uninhabitable if a certain amount of this element is in the ground.”
Yet each action comes with an equal and opposite reaction. As soon as the bill was voted down in the house, Chappelle-Nadal began to filibuster in the Senate before the Senate became entangled in procedural knots it still finds itself in as of the publishing of this article.