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Senate hits the brakes on eminent domain language

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After returning from a dinnertime recess, the Senate debated a mining royalties bill until late Wednesday night — a measure the House had attached a contentious eminent domain amendment to. 

The amendment, which came from Rep. Jim Hansen earlier in the day in the lower chamber, would limit private companies’ ability to use eminent domain to construct above-ground merchant lines. It largely targets the proposed Grain Belt Clean Line Project. 

State Sen. Jason Holsman

The amendment was attached to Republican Sen. Gary Romine’s SB 202 which is related to mining royalties on federal lands. Hansen has also championed a bill with similar language that narrowly passed through a Senate committee earlier this week. 

Democrats held court debating the eminent domain language for a few hours Wednesday night, largely led by Sen. Jason Holsman. He and others, including Minority Leader Gina Walsh, said they supported Romine’s underlying bill but disagreed with the eminent domain addition — including how it was attached. 

Holsman argued the Grain Belt project would be beneficial to the state by creating construction jobs, bringing progress and economic development to rural areas, and resulting in nearly $13 million in savings.  

“We’re going to look back and say this is the type of thing we needed to take the next step and get off dependence on fossil fuels,” he said. 

“I thought the mining bill was a good bill, but now that [HB 1062] is tied to it, I don’t support it,” Walsh said. 

Republican Sen. Ed Emery, too, expressed concern that the bill could create a “special law” in targeting the Grain Belt project.

Ultimately, Romine asked the House to either strip the amendment or go to conference over it. Following the action, Beth Conley, an Invenergy spokesperson, praised the Senate for having “stood up for dozens of Missouri communities that will save more than $12.8 million annually on electric bills” because of the Grain Belt project. 

“We hope lawmakers will continue to stand against the threat this legislation presents to one of the state’s largest and most beneficial infrastructure projects,” Conley said. “We will continue to work closely with Missouri policymakers to ensure the Grain Belt Express project can move forward with certainty and stability for Missouri workers and landowners.” 

Hansen’s HB 1062 passed out of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee with a 6-5 vote Monday. Sen. Wayne Wallingford, the committee chairman, called the bill “one of the toughest bills that I’ve heard since I’ve been in the legislature” since he could see both sides’ points. 

“We’re trying to balance two good things — in my mind — and see which one ends up being the best for the state of Missouri,” he told The Missouri Times.

“The bill is vital to protect the private property rights of all Missourians from eminent domain abuse,” Hansen told The Missouri Times then. “I look forward to continuing to work with my constituents, fellow representatives, and senators to ensure the bill receives the support and attention it needs to pass on from the Missouri Senate and make its way to Governor Parson’s desk.”