The Missouri House took action this past week to protect landowners 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 utilizes eminent domain to acquire land in northern Missouri.
The 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 Grain Belt Company is a private out-of-state company that is using eminent domain as a public utility to gain private profits. There is very little benefit for the state of Missouri. Only six percent of the power is dispersed in our state.
This bill is in response to landowners who are pleading with the legislature for help. The bill ensures utility projects in Missouri must actually benefit the state of Missouri. It provides just compensation for landowners when their land is being taken from them or is being condemned. It also incentivizes negotiations outside the court process.
HB 2005 requires 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 a court will appoint three disinterested commissioners, with at least one of the commissioners being a farmer who has been farming in the county for at least 10 years.
The bill requires another positive vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
Making prescription medications more affordable (HB 1677)
Missourians will eventually see lower prescription drug costs thanks to my legislation moving forward in the Missouri House of Representatives. House members gave my House bill HB 1677 first-round approval. It requires transparency and accountability from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who do business in Missouri.
PBMs are paid third-party administrators of prescription drug coverage for insurers and employers. They provide a variety of services including developing and maintaining formularies, processing claims, and negotiating discounts and rebates between payers and manufacturers. PBMs manage pharmacy plans for 230 million Americans.
My House bill HB 1677 will ultimately reduce prescription drug costs for our constituents and will help all Missourians understand how rebates related to their prescription drug purchases are handled by the PBMs, who their employers contract with.
The bill offers transparency by following the money via reports provided by the PBMs. These reports will show Missourians that these PBMs are actually pocketing a significant portion of the rebate moneys, which they collect, that should be going back to the patients. HB 1677 will help put the money back in the patients’ hands instead of paying shareholders’ dividends.
HB 1677 requires PBMs to report the dollar amount of rebates collected from pharmaceutical manufacturers, the dollar amount of rebates that were not passed on, and the dollar amount of all fees and payments received from pharmaceutical manufacturers. The bill also specifies that PBMs must notify health carriers and pharmacies in writing of any potential conflict of interest, including but not limited to common ownership or any other relationship between the PBM and any other health carrier or pharmacy with which the PBM contracts.
This legislation will help restore the balance in the health care system and ensure Missourians have sustainable access to medications and choice in where they receive their pharmacy services.
The bill requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
Bills sent to the Senate
HB 2694 is meant to lessen the increases Missourians will see in their property taxes due to rising vehicle values. The bill modifies existing state law, which requires assessors to use the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) price guide to assess the values of Missourians’ cars. Instead of being restricted to using October’s NADA values, HB 2694 will 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. The market price of vehicles has been increasing 30 to 40 percent and the bill will stabilize prices without a large increase in Missourians’ personal property taxes.
HB 1856 establishes the “Extended Learning Opportunities Act”. An “extended learning opportunity” is an out-of-classroom learning experience that provides a student with enrichment opportunities, career readiness or employability skills opportunities such as internships or apprenticeships, any other approved educational opportunities. The bill requires that by the 2023-24 school year the State Board of Education and local school boards must inform students of the opportunity to participate and earn credit for extended learning opportunities. The bill ensures students and their families are well-informed about opportunities for learning that extend beyond the classroom and provides information on applying to receive credit for those experiences.
HB 2202 requires, for all school years on or after July 1, 2023 to provide coursework and instruction in computer science in public and charter high schools. The bill also establishes the “Computer Science Education Task Force”. The mission of the Task Force is to develop a state strategic plan for expansion of computer science education programs statewide. The bill will help Missouri address the labor shortages experienced by technical industries that are seeking to hire individuals who have the computer science background and knowledge base.
HB 1606 requires all non-charter counties, by June 30th of each year, to prepare and publish in a qualified newspaper a financial statement for the previous year. The financial statement will include the name, office, and current gross annual salary of each elected or appointed county official whose salary is set by the County Salary Commission. The bill allows small counties to publish notices in the same manner as large counties, using the condensed format of financial statements and should result in savings for them.
HB 2163 provides that a surviving spouse will not be considered as “next-of-kin” if an action for dissolution of marriage has been filed and is pending in a court of competent jurisdiction. Additionally, the “next-of-kin” of a deceased person may delegate the final disposition of the deceased to an agent through a power of attorney. The bill is meant to protect the interests of the deceased and surviving family members in the event the deceased had begun, but not finalized, divorce proceedings.
My best to all of you!
Representative Dale Wright