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Lawmakers Agree on Bill Limiting Use of Eminent Domain

Legislation sets requirements for fair compensation

Jefferson City — Lawmakers from the Senate and House agreed to legislation modifying state laws on eminent domain.

The House bill tightens state law concerning the use of eminent domain. HB 1944 prohibits eminent domain from being used solely for economic development. The legislation also prohibits farmland from being considered “blighted.”

HB 1944 also requires factors such as fair market value and heritage value to be considered when deciding fair compensation for property taken through eminent domain. Those who have had their homes taken by a condemning authority are required to receive 25 percent more than the home’s value. Under the heritage value provision, homes, farms or businesses that have been in the same extended family for at least 50 years will automatically receive an additional 50 percent of the land’s value. The bill is on its way to the governor.

The General Assembly gave final approval to the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 of this year. The budget, made up of HBs 1001-1013, represents Missouri’s expected appropriations and revenues for the 2007 fiscal year. The approximately $20.8 billion budget is now on its way to the governor.

The budget is marked by a 4 percent pay raise for state employees and the return of some state health-care services compromised last year. Services that had been subject to appropriations last year, such as funding for eyeglasses and wheelchair components for adult Medicaid recipients, are now guaranteed.

Also under the spending plan, Missouri’s K-12 funding formula will receive an additional $142 million and $25 million will go toward the new Healthcare Technology Fund, to invest in electronic medical services. Among state departments, the Department of Social Services receives the most funding with an approximately $6.2 billion appropriation. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will receive $5 billion, and $2.6 billion will go to the Missouri Department of Transportation. Higher education will collect $1.07 billion.

House legislation changing Missouri laws on sex offenders was approved by the Senate. HB 1698 imposes mandatory life sentences against certain repeat sex offenders, establishes a toll-free hotline to report sexual abuse and allows probation and parole officers to have access to registered sex offenders’ personal computers to look for evidence of child pornography. The measure also enhances penalties against those convicted of certain forcible sexual offenses and denies bail to those convicted of child molestation or possession of child pornography.

HB 1698 also changes some standards of who is included on the statewide sex offender registry. Under the bill, some new offenses are to be included in the registry, while various nonsexual crimes no longer require offenders to be registered. The bill has been returned to the House.
The House passed a Senate bill requiring Missourians to submit a government-issued photographic identification card in order to vote. SB 1014 prohibits individuals from using paychecks, utility bills or bank statements as valid identification. The bill also requires the state to issue photo IDs to all citizens who cannot afford them.

The House version of SB 1014 contains several exemptions to the photo-ID requirement for the 2006 elections. Under the latest version, elderly and mentally and physically disabled Missourians, those with a “sincerely held” religious opposition to photo IDs, and individuals 65 or older can still vote in this year’s elections if they sign an authorized affidavit affirming their identity. Individuals without photo IDs can also vote in 2006 elections if their identity is affirmed by election officials at the polling station. Those without photo IDs can also cast a provisional ballot if they have a non-photo ID and sign an affidavit. All exemptions would be cancelled after the 2006 elections.

SB 1014 is now in conference committee, where House and Senate members must agree to a final version of the legislation in order to send it to the governor.

The House and Senate have given final approval to Senate legislation modifying Missouri’s emissions-inspection program. SB 583 decentralizes the emissions-testing program, which applies to residents of the St. Louis metropolitan area, and loosens emissions restrictions on some vehicles. Instead of the specialized emissions-testing stations operating now, certified motor-vehicle repair workers at private repair shops would be able to perform emissions tests. Lawmakers have removed a provision included earlier in the year that would have eliminated a state law requiring drivers to undergo biennial vehicle safety inspections. The bill is on its way to the governor.

Final legislative approval also was given to Senate legislation allowing culinary students to taste, but not consume, certain alcoholic beverages that are part of class curriculum. Both chambers have agreed on SB 725, which allows students who are 18 or older to taste beer, wine and other beverages that are part of a culinary course.

The Missouri Senate will reconvene Monday, May 8, in its final week of session. The Second Regular Session of the 93rd Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 12.

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