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Eminent domain ballot suit heard in Jefferson City

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – Two ballot initiatives over the use of eminent domain are at the center of a lawsuit heard Wednesday in Cole County Circuit Court.

One would affect government powers to buy and resell blighted property. The other would bar using eminent domain for private purposes, with exceptions for utilities.

Attorney Robert Hess, representing the Missouri Municipal League, argues that the language used could make a whole range of projects harder to develop.

"Stadiums, downtown redevelopment, revitalization, all depend on responsible use of condemnation to make that happen, and these amendments would put that in jeopardy," Hess said.

Attorney Jeremiah Morgan, representing the state, defended the language in court.

"The use of the term 'private purpose' does inform (voters), puts them on notice, of what this ballot is intended to do...when (voters) read that, they will understand that it will prohibit the use of eminent domain to develop shopping malls and so forth," Morgan said.

Cole County Judge Richard Callahan will issue a ruling at a later date.