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House Gives First Round Approval to Eminent Domain Legislation

Eminent domain legislation gained nearly unanimous support from the Missouri House when it came up for preliminary approval. But the House overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to toughen the bill's standards for taking private property for private development. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

Only seven lawmakers voted against the final version of the bill...Before the final vote, the House rejected an amendment that would've prevented the use of eminent domain for the PRIMARY purpose of economic development.

Instead, the House adopted an amendment that restricts eminent domain for the SOLE purpose of economic development.

It may sound like a fine distinction but it's a major difference for a handful of mostly rural lawmakers...They say that by approving the amendment, the House did little to reverse the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, which stated that jurisdictions could take private property for economic development.

Democratic Representative Rachel Bringer represents portions of Northeast Missouri.

Bringer says by restricting the use of eminent domain for the SOLE purpose of economic development, lawmakers have given developers a loophole, a way to proceed with their projects.

She says it isn't hard to imagine how developers might try to demonstrate that their project has some other purpose than economic development.

But a number of lawmakers argued that Bringer's approach would be too strict and would squelch development.

Republican Representative Bryan Pratt of suburban Kansas City says lawmakers have to be careful...He says the idea is to protect private property while keeping economic development opportunities open.

Other lawmakers, especially those from urban areas agreed.

Democratic Representative Fred Kratky of St Louis says there are times when a city may want to move forward with an economic development project that will enhance a neighborhood. He says lawmakers shouldn't make that impossible.

Besides limiting the use of eminent domain for the sole purpose of economic development, lawmakers also voted to give a bonus to landowners when their land is taken through eminent domain...The bonus would be based on how long they've owned the land. The bill does not require that property be blighted in order for eminent domain to be used. The bill faces a final vote before advancing to the senate.