ST. JAMES— The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board was joined by Rep. Steve Lynch and Rep. Mike McGirl for its Jan. 10 meeting. They spoke to the board about his views on upcoming legislative issues, and the board shared its 2020 legislative priorities.
Each year, the MRPC board compiles a list of legislative priorities it considers important to the region and delivers those priorities to the legislators who serve residents of the region.
The top priorities for 2020, as voted by MRPC board members are:
In regional transportation: MRPC supports efforts to increase funding for rural transit, provide a state appropriation to cities and counties to address local transportation issues including updating existing bridges, low water crossings and chip and seal roads to ensure access for emergency vehicles, school transportation and access to emergency services; assist in finding additional funding for highways 63 and 50; efforts supporting MoDOT and MRPC planning process and the transportation priorities put forth each year and work with regional and local partners across the state to find sustainable transportation funding to advance projects.
In regional economic development: MRPC supports the appropriation of state dollars to help implement the state broadband plan; revision of state tax laws to allow Missouri to comply with the South Dakota vs Wayfair supreme court decision and collect state and local sales tax on all internet sales using a streamlined uniform approach; full support for Fort Leonard Wood; and funding for regional planning commissions.
In health care and social services: MRPC supports the adoption of a prescription drug monitoring program; funding more mental health programs to ensure access to those programs; providing low cost quality health care to rural underserved populations; expanding Medicaid across the state; and supporting programs to protect healthcare workers from violence in the workplace.
In environmental issues: MRPC supports reinstating MDNR’s tire amnesty recycling program that served local governments; maintaining a tipping fee and formula that funds solid waste management districts; reviewing all federal and state environmental laws every five to 10 years; and empowering MDNR to work cooperatively with local communities on improvements and upgrades to sanitary treatment facilities.
In education: MRPC requests that the state legislature continue to fully fund the Foundation Formula for public education and stop cutting dollars for education in Missouri; raise the states per-student rate to the rural school districts 8% and require the increase to go to teachers and staff (not administration) salaries; and continue expanding Technical Education, certificate programs and two year colleges and degrees, which supports Governor Parson’s workforce development initiatives.
In local government: MRPC supports increasing reimbursement to counties for costs of housing inmates held on state charges; repealing or amending prevailing wage laws to only be applied to projects that cost more than $500,000 and receive 50% or more funding from the state; making more grants or low interest loans available to small municipalities with smaller operating budgets; and stopping unfunded mandates.
In general: MRPC supports eliminating dark money contributions and ensuring full disclosure of all contributions; repealing or lengthening term limits; and working toward providing competitive salaries for state employees.
The board approved the full list of priorities during its December board meeting. A report detailing all of MRPC’s legislative priorities will be delivered to legislators representing residents of the region in late January.
Topics discussed by Rep. Lynch focused around the military in our region and the need to support them and their families. He has filed HB 1140 that modifies professional licensing reciprocity so that military spouses could more easily continue their professional careers upon transfer to Missouri. Rep. Lynch is also working on a bill that would expand term limits in Missouri allowing for a maximum of 16 years to be served in the legislature. Currently Missouri legislators are limited to eight years in the House and eight years in the senate. Rep Lynch is proposing the removal of the stipulation on where the years are served, making it 16 years total, regardless of where years are served. He also included remarks on his final year and his appreciation on being able to serve his constituents.
Rep. McGirl spoke about the broadband issue and the importance of finding a solution and how important it is for constituents to speak with their legislators.
In other business, the MRPC board:
Approved the MRPC’s audit. Tammy Alsop of Hochschild, Bloom and Company reviewed the audit with the board and delivered an un-modified opinion, the best opinion possible. She complimented MRPC staff on their efforts;
Approved the Federal Priorities as prioritized by the MRPC board that will be delivered to the federal delegation in mid-March;
Heard a report on the Washington County Complete Count 2020 Committee process and was encouraged to ensure communities get their citizens counted. For every uncounted person in the census, approximately $1,300 is lost in funding possibilities for communities and counties; and
Honored Shane Jones of Belle with his MRPC volunteer award. Jones was away at college in October and was unable to attend MRPC’s annual dinner where awards were presented. He and his parents, Eugene and Consuelo Jones, attended the MRPC meeting where MRPC Chairman Larry Miskel and Steve Vogt, city of Belle, honored Jones for his volunteer and leadership work in high school.
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 27 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.