ST. JAMES— The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board was joined by Reps. Tom Hurst, Steve Lynch and Jason Chipman at its Dec. 13 meeting to discuss the upcoming legislative session and shared MRPC’s 2019 priorities. Hannah Larrick, a representative with Senator Roy Blunt’s office, was also in attendance.
Each year, the MRPC board complies a list of legislative priorities it considers important to the region and delivers those priorities to the legislators who serve the residents of the region. The top priorities for 2019, as voted by the MRPC board are:
In regional transportation: MRPC requests state legislative efforts to fully support MoDOT and MRPC planning process and the transportation priorities put forth each year, to assist in finding additional funding for Highways 63 and 50 and to support 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 insure access for emergency vehicles, school transportation and access to emergency services.
In regional economic development: MRPC supports state legislative efforts to appropriate state dollars to help implement the state broadband plan, provide state incentives for downtown revitalization in rural areas, fully support Fort Leonard Wood and recognize that it is an economic development engine for Missouri, revise state tax laws to allow Missouri to adhere to the South Dakota vs. Wayfair Supreme Court decision and collect state and local sales taxes on all internet sales using a streamlined uniform approach that does not place too great a burden on small businesses and full funding of state aid for regional planning commissions.
In health care and social services: MRPC supports efforts to establish a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, provide funding for more mental health programs to insure access, provide low cost quality health care to rural underserved populations and support Medicaid expansion across the state in order to decrease the number of uninsured and underinsured individuals accessing healthcare at Missouri hospitals.
In environmental: MRPC requests maintaining the tipping fee and formula that funds solid waste management districts, support for programs that provide incentives for market development and strive to establish more markets for recyclables in Missouri in order to create jobs and support local resource recovery programs and support for expanded nuclear energy for electrical generation.
In education: MRPC supports legislative efforts for expansion of technical education, certificate programs and two year colleges and degrees, fully fund the Foundation Formula for Public Education and to ensure the state board of education is neutral politically and focuses on policies that will build and train an exceptional workforce for the industries of the future.
In local government: MRPC encourages a cap on prosecuting attorneys’ salary at 80 percent of Associate Judges’ salary and require they fund their retirement fund the same as judges and other county elected office holders, to increase reimbursement to counties for costs of housing inmates held on state charges, allow counties to amend their own budgets as they have a need and see fit, and repeal prevailing wage statutes and consider using the Maryland Compromise as a model – prevailing wage does not apply to projects under $500,000, unless 50 percent or more is state funded.
In general issues: MRPC supports elimination of dark money contributions and insure full disclosure of all contributions, ensuring that the Department of Revenue meets compliance standards and deadlines so that Missouri will achieve the Real ID requirements by the deadline of October 1, 2020 when the Federal government will begin fully enforcing the Real ID Act, repeal or lengthen term limits and work toward providing competitive salaries for state employees so that Missouri does not have the distinction of having the lowest paid public employees in the nation.
The board approved the full list of priorities during its November board meeting. A report detailing all of MRPC’s legislative priorities will be delivered to all legislators representing the region in late January.
Topics discussed by the Chipman, Lynch, Hurst and Larrick included the importance of transportation funding, efforts on broadband internet and work that will be done with the newly passed medical marijuana bill.
In other business, the MRPC board:
Approved a ranking of transportation needs within the region, as recommended by the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC)(see related story);
Approved the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the region. The CEDS is an economic development document that identifies needs across the eight-county region; and
Honored and presented plaques to two outgoing members from the board – Maries County Presiding Commissioner Ray Schwartze and Osage County Presiding Commissioner Dave Dudenhoeffer. Washington County Presiding Commissioner Marvin Wright was unable to attend the meeting, but will also receive a plaque for his dedication to the board and service as current chairman. Wright will leave the board in January and Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, current vice chairman, will move into the chairmanship.
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. Washington County Presiding Commissioner Marvin Wright serves as chairman of the board. A professional staff of 25 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.