Audrey Spalding
Last night, yet another piece of legislation received the "Kansas City Land Bank Bump." Senate Bill 729, which began as a short, three-page bill, ended the night at an impressive 78 pages.

The bill originally was a relatively uninteresting piece of legislation meant to improve procedures for Missouri counties making purchases. Now, the poor thing is bloated with language addressing, among other things, Springfield School District board elections, local debt collection, economic development boards, and the creation of a Kansas City land bank.

The land bank "amendment" alone added 35 pages to SB 729. This is the third time the land bank legislation has been tacked onto an unrelated bill. First, it was attached to a bill that was supposed to improve transparency. Then it was added to a bill that was supposed to help counties manage their budgets.

This last-ditch attempt to push legislation to the finish line by any means necessary is unfortunate and opaque. We saw efforts like this last year, when legislators rolled an extensive list of bills into a 356-page behemoth that entailed the creation of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits. Despite that bill's failure, it appears that land bank proponents are taking a page from tax credit proponents' strategy manual.

If legislators intend to vote on this bill before the end of the legislative session on Friday, I hope they at least take time to read it. The land bank legislation (or "amendment") raises a number of questions that remain unanswered:

  • Why allow a government land bank to bid against private would-be buyers? Don't we want this property to have a chance of being redeveloped privately? (141.984.6)

  • Why allow a government land bank to incur debt without limitation? (141.981.6 (3))

  • Why allow a government land bank to borrow against promised funds from the state of Missouri? (141.994.1)

  • Why allow a government land bank the power to build, construct, lease, and furnish property? Wouldn't that put it in direct competition with the struggling private real estate market? (141.983 (13))

  • Why create a government land bank? Where is one example of a government land bank that has accomplished a significant reduction in vacant government-owned property?

About the Author

Audrey Spalding