The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Backers of ballot initiatives limiting the use of eminent domain to take private property will soon be seeking signatures on petitions for a November vote on their proposals.
A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday rewrote a summary of one the constitutional amendments sponsored by Missouri Citizens for Property Rights and rejected a legal challenge to the group’s second amendment.
Supporters had held off on gathering signatures during the yearlong court fight because any names signed under a summary later changed by the court would not be counted.
Although the case still could be appealed the Missouri Supreme Court, appeals court decisions on Missouri ballot measure summaries usually have stood up. Missouri Citizens for Property Rights plans to start gathering the roughly 155,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot as soon as the secretary of state’s office certifies the revised summary, group chairman Ron Calzone said.
A spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said that would happen by Friday.
Missouri law requires sponsors of petitions to get a certain number of signatures from various parts of the state. Calzone said the group’s paid staff and volunteers would primarily target the St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Jefferson City areas.
“We’re just excited to finally be able to take a petition to the people,” Calzone said. “If they believe that the role of government is to protect your property rights and not help special interests violate those property rights, then they’ll agree with what we’re trying to do.”
The proposed constitutional amendments are intended to prevent a person’s home, business or other property from being condemned for private development, such as a shopping center. They also would take away cities’ and counties’ ability to condemn property for redevelopment because of blight and instead create a court process to declare property a nuisance, clean it up and place a lien on it. Eminent domain could still be used for roads and other public infrastructure.
Gary Markenson, the executive director of the Missouri Municipal League, said Tuesday that the combined effect of the two measures would be to stunt development — particularly in urban areas — and burden local governments with greater costs to clear nuisances.
The Municipal League, which was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, has not discussed whether to appeal to the Supreme Court, he said.
In June, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan agreed with just one of the many specific claims raised by the lawsuit. He ruled that the ballot summary for one of the measures implied it would add some protections for private property that already exist in the state constitution. Callahan rewrote the summary by removing the objectionable phrase.
The appeals court panel rejected Callahan’s version and substituted its own wording. Calzone said he was satisfied with the change; Markenson also claimed a partial victory.
Carnahan spokeswoman Laura Egerdal described the appellate decision as only a “minor change” that affirms that the secretary of state’s original wording was generally fair and accurate.
The Associated Press
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