For immediate release
MRPC discusses state priorities with legislators
ST. JAMES— Three of the Meramec Region’s state representatives discussed the region’s state priorities for 2023 with the board of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) during its board meeting on Jan. 12. Rep. Don Mayhew, Rep. Bill Hardwick and Rep. Tara Peters were in person at the meeting and spoke to the board about their views on upcoming legislative issues, and the board shared its 2023 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 2023, as voted by MRPC board members are:
- In regional transportation: MRPC fully supports funding for additional improvements to the Highway 63 corridor; supports funding for upgrades of bridge replacement projects; supports increased funding and more locally equitable match component for the MoDOT cost-share program; and supports lowering the speed limits on county gravel roads to 40 mph statewide.
- In regional economic development: MRPC supports increased funding and opportunities for workforce training and apprenticeships to address critical shortages in areas of the economy; supports increased and equitable funding opportunities for rural tourism efforts; supports increased funding opportunities for critical infrastructure improvements, especially failing systems in rural and impoverished areas; and fully support Fort Leonard Wood and recognize it is an economic development engine for Missouri.
- In health care and social services: MRPC supports improved access to telehealth services through expansion and improvement of broadband infrastructure and increase reimbursement rates for telemedicine encounters so it becomes a more viable treatment option; provide adequate funding for rural hospitals and realize their importance not only to regional healthcare but also to local economies; and supports providing adequate funding, access and resources for behavioral health services, such as substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as continue establishing crisis centers, treatment facilities to address these problems in rural areas while continuing to adequately fund the Department of Mental Health as well as the Department of Public Safety, Family Services Division and Health and Senior Services.
- In environmental issues: MRPC supports additional funding for the regional solid waste management districts in order to provide more local grant funds and expansion of recycling, waste reduction and reuse programs; supports additional funding for market development of recycled products; and providing financial resources for residents to upgrade or replace failing on-site wastewater systems, with special consideration given to low income and impoverished individuals and families.
- In education: MRPC requests that Missouri support post-secondary education in trades, i.e., technical schools and community colleges, as well as vocational and job training programs; provide adequate funding for rural school districts, especially those in impoverished areas; and support school district efforts to acquire substitute teachers.
- In local government: MRPC supports lowering grant match requirements for grants, especially state ARPA grants to very small, rural communities; supports the addition of the prosecuting attorney and sheriff to the list of county level positions paid for by the state; supports the elimination of unfunded mandates; supports the expansion of water and sewer infrastructure grants; and supports increasing funding for regional planning commissions by updating funding caps within legislation created in 1965.
- In general: MRPC supports the development of additional day care options throughout the state; promoting tourism and businesses through greater incentives and tax breaks in order to make Missouri more attractive to other states; and encourages supporting adoption and ways to streamline and expedite the adoption process and reduce financial costs to adopting families.
The board approved the full list of priorities during its January board meeting. A report detailing all of MRPC’s legislative priorities was delivered to legislators serving the region Jan. 24 at the State Capitol.
The legislators discussed the various topics they are working on including fairly distributing funds for BRO Program and the CART Fund, looking at crime issues in the St. Louis area that also affect the region, working to ensure good programs are available for veterans, addressing concerns about childcare and their appreciation for the information MRPC shares with them from the region.
In other business, the MRPC board:
- Held elections for new officers. The retirement of Larry Miskel left a vacancy for the position of board secretary. Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin agreed to move up to the position of secretary and Phelps County Presiding Commissioner Joey Auxier was elected the new treasurer for the MRPC board. Steve Vogt continues to serve as chairman and Mary Heywood serves as vice chair;
- Approved a revision to the MRPC procurement policy allowing for direct solicitation when the standard procurement policy does not produce any bidders;
- Approved the financials for the period ending Dec. 31, 2022; and
- Heard a report from MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge that project graduation and docudrama grants are available to the schools in the Meramec Region. Application deadline is February 28 and applications are available at https://www.meramecregion.org/career-and-business-opportunities/grant-opportunities/. Additionally, Prigge shared that Dr. Joan Schuman’s MS&T engineering management class will be working in Potosi this semester. She also mentioned that the next broadband meeting is planned most likely in May.
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. Steve Vogt, representing the city of Belle, serves as chairman of the board. A professional staff of 33 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/.
Cutline: Rep. Tara Peters (left), Rep. Bill Hardwick and Rep. Don Mayhew attended the MRPC board meeting Jan. 12 to discuss the state legislative priorities for the region as set forth by the MRPC board.