02/21/19 -- HB 321 -- Requires LLCs in St. Joseph to register property ownership

Bill Number: 
HB 321
Bill Purpose: 
Requires LLCs in St. Joseph to register property ownership
Date of Vote: 
My Vote: 

HB 321, introduced by Representative Sheila Solon (Republican - District 9) is specifically targeted at St. Joseph, MO.  In fact, the bill is written in a way that only St. Joseph is effected.  I am not a fan of that type of strategy -- with very few exceptions, I think we should pass laws that apply statewide, not just for certain areas.

This bill has an extremely simple goal - by making LLC's register with St. Joseph a list of properties they own, the city can more easily determine who owns and is responsible for derelict buildings.  I don't think it's generally unreasonable to require businesses that own property to provide local government with their contact information, so on those grounds alone I was fine with this bill.  However both the bill sponsor and its proponents argued that the intent and purpose of this legislation was to make it easier to hunt down owners of property that doesn't meet property maintenance codes.   That's where things fell apart for me.

I'm not against localities having ordinances against unsafe or unsanitary properties.  However in many (most?) cases, a substantial amount of the property maintenance ordinances that municipalities pass are focused on cosmetics, not safety.  That I cannot condone.  While no one likes to live in a community with rundown properties, the rights of a property owner should always come before the preferences of their neighbors.  Since I have not been fully briefed on the maintenance codes of St. Joseph, I cannot with any certainty say that this legislation won't be used to ticket people with mildly peeling paint, or who fail to plant the proper types of shrubs.   I have no interest in making it easier for government to enforce such unjust laws, and as such I could not vote for this bill.   It did end up passing overwhelmingly anyway, however.