Senator Cunningham’s Legislative Column for July 14, 2017

Cunningham Updated Banner March 2017

During the last regular session, there were more than 540 Senate Bills and just over 1,220 House Bills filed. I am proud to say that of the 71 bills we passed as a General Assembly, one of them was Senate Bill 35, which I sponsored the hope of creating more accountability to state departments when they buy land.

I have worked hard with other legislators from southern Missouri to pass legislation that would require state departments to hold public meetings in areas where the department plans to purchase large pieces of land. For years, large amounts of land in the 33rd District were being purchased by various state departments without notifying the residents in these communities. Under this legislation, that will change. The state is now required to hold a public hearing in counties affected by land purchases. Elected officials also have to be notified, and postings must be made on state agency websites and in newspapers.

I sponsored this legislation in an effort to bring more transparency to land acquisition by the state. Citizens deserve to know where their tax dollars are going, and those citizens who have land purchased next to them have a right to know what the plans for that land are.  My main concern is that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources does not pay property taxes on the land they own after five years. This means thousands and thousands of acres are being taken off of the tax rolls for an area. In Oregon County alone, the community is burdened by the loss of tax revenues as 125,000 acres are already owned by the federal and state governments.

I am happy to say this year, Senate Bill 35 was passed and signed by the governor on July 10. This means, starting Aug. 28, when the Department of Natural Resources or the Commissioner of Administration contracts to purchase 60 acres or more of land or at a cost of more than $250,000, the respective department is required to take the actions within Senate Bill 35.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.