Guest Column: Sen. Dan Brown – Pushing back on a forceful land grab

brownBy Senator Dan Brown

We live in a society that is based on the right of the individual to participate in his or her own government. Our ancestors created a system of checks and balances giving certain responsibilities to the legislative branch, some to the judiciary, and others to the executive branch. In recent years, we have seen the executive branch overreaching into areas clearly within the elected General Assembly’s sphere of responsibility and many times without the public’s knowledge or consent.

What some people do not know is that many of the rules and regulations we live by in the Show-Me State on a daily basis are never voted on by our elected officials. They are never voted on by the public. Many, in fact, are promulgated by bureaucrats who have been appointed by the governor. It seems lately these governor appointed departments don’t even worry about promulgating rules. Instead, they have taken it into their own hands to make significant purchases or changes that are notably altering the lives of Missourians.

Recently, I have learned about a troubling trend in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Late last year the DNR’s forceful actions to buy land in Oregon County resulted in a complete lack of transparency and negligence. Instead of using funds from a 2009 settlement meant to pay for the restoration of damaged lands, the Missouri Trustee Council, comprised of the Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, put the money forward to buy private property. Once it becomes government-owned land, it will no longer be subject to personal property or real estate taxes. Not only is this is a huge hit to Oregon County, but the department went against the rules and bought the land without public discussion.

Before the council can spend any settlement money, a public hearing must be held on the plan. Not only was a plan never presented, but the trustees never alerted the public to any hearing. There has been widespread vocal and written opposition to this DNR land grab. Many state and local leaders have tried to get answers with no luck. When money has been set aside for a certain area, the money should be spent in that area, not transferred to a new project. This abuse of power and lack of transparency cannot continue.

That’s why I have filed Senate Bill 1064. The measure will require DNR to submit a detailed budget analysis to the budget and appropriations committees in the General Assembly. The analysis will contain all existing and proposed expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year. This bill will create more accountability for the department because the Legislature will have a better idea on where they will spend their money. This measure will also make DNR more accountable, transparent, and hopefully more responsive. It’s extremely imperative to have proper oversight by the General Assembly of those to whom we give such great discretion and responsibility to spend money and write regulations.

The decisions of the unelected bureaucrats are affecting our lives. It’s time to tell them enough is enough. I encourage you to call your district representatives and urge them to quickly pass Senate Bill 1064.