Lawmakers push for legislation to combat nuisance properties
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Lawmakers push for legislation to combat nuisance properties

Date: September 5, 2014
By: Jill Ornitz
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB371, Governor's veto letter and the list of vetoed bills.

JEFFERSON CITY - Property owners in urban areas would have more power to go after absentee landlords and nusiance property owners if a bill pending a veto override goes into effect.

The original bill would have expanded who could seek court action against a nuisance to include more types of neighborhood associations and nearby property owners.

In his veto letter, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said the legislation, "began as a well-meaning measure to provide additional tools for neighborhood organizations and property owners to hold negligent property owners accountable for diminished property values and unsafe conditions."

Nixon's letter cited an amendment offered by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, saying the amendment would infringe upon the rights of property owners and give environmental polluters immunity.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, the bill's sponsor, said that isn't the case.

"I spoke with several attorneys that said that's far from the truth," Nasheed said.

Nasheed said of the bill, "This is just a tool in the toolbox to help protect [constituents'] neighborhoods from absentee landlords and drug dealers."

As the bill made its way through the legislature, St. Louis' Bridgeton Landfill was dealing with a series of lawsuits filed by nearby homeowners seeking damages for unpleasant odors and potential health risks due to living so close to radioactive materials.

Nasheed said representatives for the landfill were not worried about this bill.

"When I talked to one of the lobbyists that represented the landfill, they basically said they had no concerns," Nasheed said.

Paul Brown, the chairman of Lawyers for City Neighborhoods, an organization which drafted the bill, said this legislation already existed before the bill was drafted, but it had excluded St. Louis as originally passed.

Brown agreed with Nasheed that Nixon's legal concerns regarding the bill were misdirected.

"These aren't brand new statutes that are being created out of nothing," Brown said. "They have never been used against landfills."

In a statement Brown issued after the bill was vetoed, he called for members of both parties to work together in support of the legislation.

"SB 731 provides a self-help tool that empowers city neighborhood organizations to help themselves in combating blight," Brown said. "Democrats and Republicans should come together during the veto session, as they did during the regular session, to support this legislation and override Gov. Nixon’s misinformed veto of SB 731."

Nasheed said the bill "didn't have a real level of opposition" when it was introduced.

The bill will be eligible for a veto override during the legislature's veto session, which starts on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

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