Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
Greetings Friends of the 8th District!
Bill filing, committee hearings, and bill hearings are going quick here at the Capitol. If you are one who likes to follow my bills, or any of the bills, I encourage you to look on the house website at www.house.mo.gov to follow the movement of the bills this session. My House Bill 1306, which is Legislation Related to Personal Hygiene Sales Tax, was heard in committee this week. I will know next week if it will pass committee. Stay Tuned!
Lawmakers Receive Annual Update on the State’s Court System
The General Assembly again convened for a joint session in the House Chamber as lawmakers gathered to receive the 2020 State of the Judiciary address. Members of the House and Senate listened to Missouri Chief Justice George W. Draper outline the successes of the court system and the areas where the court and the legislature have worked well together to improve the justice system.
Draper pointed out that Missouri has been at the national forefront in the fight against drug addiction. He noted that the legislature passed the first treatment court legislation in 1998 and in recent years lawmakers have passed bills to expand the full spectrum of treatment court services. Draper said Missouri has more than 100 counties served by more than 120 treatment courts. He also highlighted the 15 treatment courts serving the special needs of veterans in 40 counties.
House Gives Initial Approval to Legislation to Create Stiff Penalties for Fentanyl Trafficking (HB 1450)
House members took action this week to address the growing problem of fentanyl abuse in the state. Lawmakers approved legislation to create stiff penalties for trafficking the synthetic opioid pain reliever the sponsor of the bill called “an incredibly deadly drug.”
The legislation that received first-round approval in the House would make it a class B felony, which carries a sentence of five to 15 years in prison, for knowingly distributing, manufacturing, or attempting to distribute or manufacture more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl or carfentanil. The distribution or manufacture of more than 20 milligrams of the drug would be a class A felony, which carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years.
Fentanyl trafficking numbers have increased by 4,711 percent in the last few years according to the United States Sentencing Commission. Many in the criminal justice industry have indicated that fentanyl and carfentanil are the deadliest drugs in America.
Currently, law enforcement and prosecutors only have the ability to charge drug traffickers with possession or possession with intent. There is a trend across the United States that has seen attorney generals, prosecutors and law enforcement work with the federal government to add fentanyl to their criminal trafficking statutes to give them a new tool in their toolbox.
The legislation given first-round approval in the House would also create stiff penalties for the trafficking of the date-rape drugs known as GHB and Rohypnol. The bill now awaits another vote in the House before moving to the Senate for debate.
House Members Act to Protect Property Owners from Eminent Domain Abuse (HB 2033)
The members of the Missouri House of Representatives have once again stood in defense of the rights of property owners. Just as they did during the 2019 session, lawmakers approved a bill specifying that a private entity cannot use the power of eminent domain for the purposes of constructing above-ground power lines.
The bill comes in response to the proposed Grain Belt Express transmission line that would carry power generated by wind turbines in Kansas across Missouri to other states in the Midwest and neighboring states. The 780-mile line would run across eight northern Missouri counties - Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls – and would deliver a portion of the power it transmits to utilities and customers in Missouri.
Last year the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a request made by Grain Belt Express to construct the high-voltage transmission line. The PSC’s decision was appealed but the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District ruled in favor of the project in December of 2019. As a result, developers would have the authority to utilize the power of eminent domain to obtain easement rights from landowners who are unwilling to sell.
The legislation approved by the House would prevent the use of eminent domain for the purpose of constructing the Grain Belt Express transmission line. It is important to prohibit private companies from using eminent domain to maximize their profits for a project that will provide little benefit for Missouri consumers. Less than 12 percent of the electricity carried by the transmission line would be sold to Missouri consumers.
The sponsor of the bill said, “The line is designed to deliver electricity to the east coast and doesn’t benefit all citizens of Missouri. The point is that this entity is going to benefit from eminent domain more than the general public.”
The bill now requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration. Similar legislation received House approval during the 2019 session but did not secure Senate approval before the legislative session ended.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however, I can. I can be reached by email at Jim.Neely@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-0246.