JAMES—Staff from three federal congressional leaders met with the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board to discuss priorities at its Jan. 18 meeting. In attendance were Justin Klocke, representing Sen. Claire McCaskill; Hannah Cleeton, representing Sen. Roy Blunt; and Bennie Cook, representing 8th Congressional District Rep. Jason Smith.
While the conversation touched on many topics, large focus was paid to tax reform, the upcoming farm bill renewal and the issue of rural broadband, which is hoped to be addressed in an upcoming infrastructure bill to be introduced. MRPC board members reminded legislative staff about the potential of Fort Leonard Wood as an economic hub and for expanded military missions and all liaisons echoed that the senators and representative were aware of the importance of Fort Leonard Wood to Missouri.
The board also shared its federal legislative priorities with the legislative staff. The priorities are voted on by the board and were given final approval during the meeting. The list will be presented to federal legislators by MRPC Chairman Ray Schwartze, Executive Director Bonnie Prigge and Assistant Director/Environmental Programs Manager Tammy Snodgrass during a trip to Washington D.C. in March. The trip coincides with the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) national policy conference.
MRPC’s top federal priorities are:
- In general concerns: to stop implementation of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) by EPA and US Corps of Engineers; to encourage all parties to work together for the betterment of the country; and to lower the salary on the overtime rule to reduce the undue hardship it places on many employers;
- In transportation: to increase federal funding for improvements to highways 50 and 63; to provide enhanced and sustainable funding for the nation’s highway, aviation and transit needs; and to encourage the Federal Highway Administration to be more flexible in allowing federal highways become toll roads to finance improvements;
- In economic and community development: to continue to promote Fort Leonard Wood; to provide high speed internet to all residents; to provide more federal assistance for public infrastructure; and to advocate and fully fund programs such as the Economic Development Administration, Community Development Block Grants and the Delta Regional Authority;
- In health care and social service issues: to equalize Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates for rural and urban hospitals and to continue to fund quality health care for uninsured; underinsured and the underserved population in the region; to repeal or correct nonworking components of the Health Care Reform Act; to encourage Medicaid and provide providers to increase preventative services; and to support full administrative funding for public housing agencies;
- In energy: to continue to oppose Cap and Trade legislations; to continue to work toward energy independence; and encourage the development of Keystone and other pipelines;
- In homeland security and emergency preparedness: support continued funding and expanded missions for Fort Leonard Wood; ensure rural regions receive adequate resources and access to homeland security and emergency preparedness programs; and build on the skills of regional planning commissions to coordinate homeland security and emergency preparedness activities on a regional basis;
- In education: support technical training initiatives; encourage greater emphasis on reading, writing, math, fine arts and science skills; and encourage additional funding to assist students with federal grants and loans; and
- In local government: eliminate unfunded federal mandates to states; develop and implement a plan to collect sales tax on Internet sales which will be redistributed to state and local governments; preserve the current tax exemption for municipal bonds; and continue mandatory funding for Payment of Lieu of Taxes program and Secure Rural Schools Act as well as make those funds more flexible.
In other business, the MRPC board:
- Approved a revised budget for MRPC with the revision being a net increase in revenue of $689 for FY 2017-18. MRPC expects revenues of $1,779,170 and expenditures of $1,764,566, leaving a balance of $14,604;
- Encouraged board members to work to help fill an at-large vacancy representing small business. This person could be from any of the eight MRPC counties;
- Discussed the Entrepreneur Assessment presented at the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) meeting Jan. 16;
- Discussed plans for the MRPC Day at the Capitol, scheduled Jan. 23;
- Learned that Meramec Regional Development Corporation still has funds to loan to small businesses needing financing; and
- Learned the Meramec Regional Community Foundation (MRCF) grant cycle is open until Jan. 31. These are $250 community grants.
The next MRPC board meeting will be held on Feb. 15, one week later than the regular meeting due to a conflict with a statewide county commissioners meeting.
Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 23, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.
To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion/.