Protecting the Property Rights of Missourians
With only a few weeks left in the legislative session, my fellow senators and I have been busy discussing and passing legislation. One important bill I want to discuss is Senate Bill 508. I had the privilege of presenting this bill to the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee on Wednesday, April 21. Senate Bill 508 would require electrical corporations seeking approval for a merchant line to provide the Public Service Commission (PSC) with a resolution of support passed by the county commission of each county through which the merchant line will be built. This legislation would also restrict these projects from constructing above-ground transmission lines using the power of eminent domain. This provision does not apply to rural electric cooperatives or certain other corporations.
At the forefront of everyone’s minds regarding this issue is the Grain Belt Express, which is owned by the Chicago-based company, Invenergy. This is a project that would develop an overhead, direct transmission line across the middle of our state, passing through the counties of Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Monroe, Randolph and Ralls.
You may be wondering why I am sponsoring this legislation if I do not live in this part of the state. As a farmer, I empathize with the farmers whose land will be used to construct this transmission line. I am passionate about this issue because I believe we need to protect the property rights of Missourians against this type of project. Many farmers and other landowners in this state testified at the hearing that they do not want this project to have the power of eminent domain to use their land for this purpose. While I am not against eminent domain being utilized if it can benefit everyone, I do not believe this project will benefit Missouri as much as the proponents of this project say it will. This transmission line would begin in western Kansas, pass through Missouri and Illinois and end at a station in Indiana, where it would connect to a power grid serving states on the east coast.
On Wednesday, April 21, while I was presenting this legislation in committee, supporters of property rights and SB 508 gathered in the Missouri Capitol to voice their concerns and urge lawmakers to pass this legislation and its counterpart bill, House Bill 527. I spoke at the rally to show my support and met with concerned citizens regarding this issue.
This legislation is ultimately about private property rights, and I am worried this sets a bad precedent for property owners and creates the opportunity for Missouri to be exploited by out-of-state interests. We must protect our state’s most precious and valuable natural resource: land. Our state’s top industry is agriculture, and I am concerned this project could destroy farms if it is approved.
Senate Bill 508 will need to be passed by the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee before it can go the Senate floor for full debate, but I am hopeful the committee takes action on this bill soon. We must protect our farmers’ property rights, and I look forward to discussing this issue with my fellow senators. I am hopeful that the third time is the charm and that this legislation will finally be passed this year.
Last week, I also had the pleasure of presenting a resolution to Sheryl “Ms. Sherry” Maxwell of Charleston, Missouri. She received the 2021 DeVerne Lee Calloway Award from the Women Legislators of Missouri. This award is named for DeVerne Lee Calloway, who was the first female African-American member of the Missouri General Assembly and an advocate for societal reform. Ms. Sherry is a valued member of our community, and I am proud she received this award. Ms. Sherry has worked tirelessly in our community to provide food to needy families, as well as worked with the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension-Charleston Outreach Center and the Kids’ Beat Program, which focuses on leadership, self-esteem and anti-drug programs. She is also the creator of Kiddie Kidz’ and Kidz’ of Distinction, an initiative designed to reinforce the importance of education and personal-social development in local youth, as well as helping students reach their full potential. Ms. Sherry has also implemented several social programs in the Bootheel, including The Beat Goes On, B.A.T.T.E.R. U.P. (Back at the Things Everyone Remembers – Uniting People) and most recently, distributing food, clothes, shoes, masks and personal hygiene products during the COVID-19 pandemic. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award, and I feel lucky to call Ms. Sherry my neighbor and friend.
Senator Jason Bean proudly serves the citizens of Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard counties in the Missouri Senate.
Please visit Sen. Bean’s official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/Bean for more legislative and constituent resources.