Approves changes to Highway 63 priorities
ST. JAMES—Jenni Riegel with Rep. Jason Smith’s office and Hannah Larrick with Sen. Roy Blunt’s office met with the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board to discuss federal legislative priorities as set forth by the MRPC board at its Feb. 6 meeting.
Conversation touched on many topics, including the rural broadband access, the president’s budget proposal, and the Fairness for Every Driver Bill.
The board shared its federal priorities with Riegel and Larrick. The priorities are voted on by the board and were approved during the Jan. meeting. The list will be presented to federal legislators by MRPC Chairman Larry Miskel, 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: Continue to protect Medicare and Social Security, continue to work toward providing rural broadband and encourage all parties to work together for the betterment of our country;
- In transportation: Encourage federal funding for improvements to Highways 50 and 63, provide enhanced and sustainable funding for the nation’s highway, aviation and transit needs and find a means to fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund and work with Federal Highway Administration to include low water crossings as eligible for funding;
- In economic and community development: Provide more federal assistance for public infrastructure: highways, bridges, locks, dams, sewer/water systems, WPA type projects, etc.; Advocate for fully funding the existing portfolio of federal community and economic development programs, including the Economic Development Administration’s infrastructure and economic development grant programs, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant, Delta Regional Authority and Small Business Administration’s business lending programs; and support efforts to provide high speed internet to all residents through block grants to states and other incentives;
- In environment: Continue to support and protect our national parks, monuments, wildlife reserves and continue to support the Chemical Safety Board;
- In health care and social services: Equalize Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates for rural and urban hospitals; continue to fund quality health care for the uninsured, underinsured, and the underserved population in the region; support full administrative funding for public housing agencies; and repeal or correct nonworking components of the Health Care Reform Act and keep the provisions that work;
- In energy: Pass the RURAL Act and continue to work toward energy independence;
- In homeland security and emergency preparedness: Ensure rural regions receive adequate and equitable access to the broad portfolio of homeland security and emergency preparedness programs, build upon the experience, capacity and skills of the regional planning commissions to coordinate, plan and implement homeland security and emergency preparedness activities on a regional basis and allow local decision-making and support continued funding and expanded missions for Fort Leonard Wood;
- In education: Support technical training initiatives such as the MO Wins and MO Health Wins program or our labor force and encourage greater emphasis on reading, writing, math and science competency; and
- In local government: Eliminate unfunded federal mandates to states such as federal elections and wastewater/storm water regulations or provide funding options/opportunities to state and/or local governments to fund them; preserve the current tax exemption for municipal bonds; recalibrate EPA wastewater standards to reduce the fiscal impact to local governments/communities; and continue mandatory funding for Payment of Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and Secure Rural Schools Act and make these funds more flexible.
In other business, the MRPC board:
- Approved the Transportation Advisory Committee’s recommendation on a re-prioritization of Highway 63 segments and a prioritization of spot improvements on Highway 63 that would improve traffic safety and flow;
- Heard an update from the planning committee on MRPC’s efforts on the Opioid epidemic and Naturally Meramec; and
- Was introduced to two new employees, Jane Johannsen and Rebecca Losing, who work on MRPC’s opioid prevention grants.
The next MRPC board meeting will be held on March 12.
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. Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel serves as chairman of the board. A professional staff of 30 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/.