Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report

March 30, 2022

We have moved several more important pieces of legislation this week including another bill that I sponsored. In this Capitol Report I am highlighting just three bills. My bill which was perfected and printed this week protecting minors who are being trafficked , HB 2032. Rep Haffner’s bill protecting the Rights of Landowners, HB 2005 and Rep. Hudson’s bill protecting against increasing property tax assessment, HB 2694.

Lawmakers Act to Protect the Rights of Landowners (HB 2005) Rep. Mike Haffner-Pleasant Hill

The Missouri House took action this week to protect land owners from having their property unlawfully seized through the misuse of eminent domain. House members gave initial approval to HB 2005, which is a direct response to the Grain Belt Express project that has the authority to use eminent domain to acquire land in Missouri.

Grain Belt Express is a high-voltage electric transmission line that will run approximately 800 miles from Kansas to Indiana. In 2019, the project was granted the authority to obtain land easements in Missouri through the use of eminent domain.

The bill’s sponsor told his colleagues, “The Grain Belt is a private out-of-state company that is using eminent domain as a public utility. There is very little benefit for the state of Missouri. Only six percent of the power is going to be used here in our state.”

The sponsor said the bill is a response to the land owners who are pleading with the legislature for help. He said the bill, “ensures utility projects in Missouri actually benefit the state of Missouri. It provides just compensation for land owners when their land is being taken from them and it’s being condemned. It also incentivizes negotiations outside the court process.”

HB 2005 would require that any electrical corporation that proposes building a transmission line must provide a minimum of 50% of its electrical load to Missouri consumers to be considered a public service and to be allowed to condemn property to construct the transmission. The bill also specifies that in condemnation proceedings, just compensation for agricultural or horticultural land will be 150% of fair market value, which will be determined by the court. Additionally, the bill states that in a condemnation proceeding for agricultural or horticultural land in which a court appoints three disinterested commissioners, at least one of the commissioners must be a farmer who has been farming in the county for at least 10 years.

The bill now requires another positive vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

The House Moves to Protect Minors who are being Trafficked (HB2032- Rep Ed Lewis -Moberly)

This bill makes clear the procedure to get a child the help they need if they were the victim of sex trafficking. The bill also gives the juvenile court exclusive original jurisdiction in proceedings involving a child who has been a victim of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation. Additionally, the bill specifies that a person will not be certified as an adult or adjudicated as a delinquent for the offense of prostitution if the person was under the age of 18 when the offense occurred. In such cases, the person will be classified as a victim of abuse and the abuse must be immediately reported to the Children's Division and to the juvenile officer for appropriate services, treatment, investigation, and other proceedings. Upon request, the local law enforcement agency and prosecuting attorney will assist the Children's Division and the juvenile officer in conducting the investigation.

The bill also creates the "Statewide Council on Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children", which will analyze data relating to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and will collect feedback from stakeholders, practitioners, and leadership throughout the state, and the Council will consist of 16 members. On or before December 31, 2023, the date the council expires, the council must submit a report of the council's activities to the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.

The bill also adds patronizing prostitution where the victim is under 18 to tier III on the sexual offender registry. The bill also creates the offense of enabling sexual exploitation of a child, which is committed when a person, acting with criminal negligence, permits or allows a violation of any of the offenses specified in the bill. The offense is a class E felony for the first offense and a class C felony for a second or subsequent offense. If the person who committed the offense is an owner of a business or a business owner's agent and the business provided the location or locations for the exploitation, the business location or locations where the exploitation occurred will be required to close for up to a year for the first offense and permanently close for a second offense. The bill also creates the offense of patronizing a sexual performance by a child, which is committed when a person obtains, solicits, or participates in a sexual performance by a child. The offense is a class C felony.

The bill now requires another positive vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

House Moves to Keep Vehicle Property Tax Rates Low (HB 2694) Rep. Brad Hudson-Cape Fair

The House has given initial approval to a plan to lessen the increases Missourians will see in their property taxes due to rising vehicle values.

The bill’s sponsor, who is a former county assessor, explained to his colleagues that the values of vehicles in the National Auto Dealers Association price guide have increased significantly. Existing state law requires assessors to use this guide to assess the values of Missourians’ cars.

He said, “If those assessed values increase then our constituents could see their personal property taxes increase on vehicles that are a year older and have more miles on them. I want to give assessors the ability in statute to take care of this.”

The State Tax Commission testified in favor of the bill when it was in a House committee. The commission’s legislative liaison explained that statute requires assessors to base vehicle values on NADA prices from each October. He has seen reports that vehicle sales prices year-to-year have increased as much as 40-percent. He explained that assessors use average trade-in values and not sales values, but those will still cause significant increases for taxpayers.

Instead of being restricted to using October’s NADA values, HB 2694 would allow assessors to use the trade-in value for a given vehicle from that edition or either of the last two years’ October NADA guides.

“Any assessor that is worth his or her salt, in my opinion, is going to do the very best that they can to meet the guidelines they’re required to meet and help the taxpayer,” said the bill’s sponsor. He added, “I was an assessor for nine years and there’s no way that I would want to have to sit across the desk from one of my constituents and explain to them why that vehicle that is a year older with more miles on it is worth more now and I’m going to hit you with a higher assessment and that means that more than likely your taxes are going to be higher come November.”

HB 2694 would allow assessors to make similar determinations of the assessed value of recreational vehicles and agricultural equipment using values from the past two years, as those vehicles have seen similar increases in value.

The House has perfected the bill and voted it through to the Senate.