JEFFERSON CITY — A month ago, Senate and House leadership stood in a Capitol Rotunda filled with hundreds of farmers and landowners and pledged to outlaw private company use of private land to build above-ground power lines.
That promise died as the session came to an end Friday afternoon.
The leadership-backed effort came largely as a result of the Grain Belt Express proposal, said Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, who sponsored a bill to block use of eminent domain for such projects.
The Grain Belt Express project, which earned Missouri regulators’ approval in March, would build a 780-mile transmission line that transmits wind energy from the Midwest to eastern states, according to The Associated Press.
Hansen’s bill elicited opposition in both chambers, with Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, launching lengthy criticism against the bill. Democrats, such as Reps. Tracy McCreery and Peter Merideth, both of St. Louis, have argued that projects like the Grain Belt would bring in tax revenue and encourage the use of green energy. Supporters see the bill as an effort to protect private property rights.
When the bill stalled, Hansen tacked core components onto two other pieces of legislation.
His effort, however, was faced with a Senate reluctant to risk another lengthy discussion following overnight filibusters and negotiations over the GM incentives and an abortion bill.
“You have one very committed senator to this issue that is going to basically kill any legislation that has that in there,” said Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, referring to Holsman.
“I’m aware that that is the reality,” Schatz said Thursday afternoon. “In this time of the year ... , one senator can pretty much make that determination whether or not to let something go through.”
Caleb Rowden, the Senate floor majority leader, said proponents in the Senate were not as “excited” about the issue as the House was.
The proposed ban on use of eminent domain by private utility companies hit a wall when the Senate voted Thursday afternoon to strip the language Hansen proposed out of a bill on mining royalties.
Hansen said he will work with landowners and county commissioners to bring the issue back next year.
“This is one battle,” Hansen said. “It’s not the whole war.”
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, email@example.com.