- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday reinstating some limits on the authority of Missouri cities and counties to restrict cellphone towers.

Nixon signed four bills into law that partially re-enact a 2013 state law, which was struck down by a Cole County judge on procedural grounds. The legislation imposes 19 new restrictions on the way local governments may regulate cellphone towers.

Telecommunications companies supported the legislation and claimed local regulations are hindering the expansion of high-speed Internet service across the state.

But the Missouri Municipal League called the measures unnecessary. Deputy Director Richard Sheets said the legislation pre-empts the local review process that ensures towers don’t lower property values and makes sure work completed on towers is conducted in the public interest.

Nixon’s office said the bills had been signed in a short announcement Thursday. The Democratic governor offered no comment in that announcement.

Among the limits on municipal regulation of cellphone towers, the measures bar governments from evaluating applications for towers based on alternative locations or requiring the removal of existing equipment as a condition for approval. The legislation also caps application fees and sets deadlines for governments to make decisions on applications.

All of the measures signed by Nixon had been incorporated into two similar bills that passed last year. But they were struck down in October by Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce for violating the Missouri Constitution’s single-subject requirement for legislation. The court ruling has been appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.

In light of Joyce’s ruling, lawmakers set out to reinstate the limits by passing five separate bills with similar provisions affecting cellphone tower, utility pole and right-of-way rules. Nixon signed four of those measures and the remaining bill is awaiting action in the House having already passed the Senate.

Sheets said the league would review this year’s laws to see if there are any grounds for a legal challenge.

All of the measures are sponsored by Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah.

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Cellphone tower legislation is SB649-651 and SB653.

Online:

Governor: http://www.governor.mo.gov