Bennie Cook with Rep. Jason Smith'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 Jan. 10 meeting.

Conversation touched on many topics, including the government shut down, rural broadband access and the upcoming Fairness for Every Driver Bill. MRPC board members reminded Cook about the potential of Fort Leonard Wood as an economic hub and for expanded military missions.

The board also shared its federal priorities with Cook 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 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, encourage all parties to work together for the betterment of our country and overturn “Citizens United” supreme court ruling.

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 establish federal funding for freight corridors identified in the Missouri State Freight Plan.

In economic and community development: Provide more federal assistance for public infrastructure by 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; support efforts to provide high speed internet to all residents through block grants to states and other incentives; make adjustments to Davis/Bacon Act that allows small, rural communities to waive prevailing wage requirements for all projects costing less than $250,000; and continue to support Fort Leonard Wood as a premier training base and look for opportunities to expand missions of Fort Leonard Wood.

In environment: Continue to support and protect our national parks, monuments, wildlife reserves and public lands and reauthorize the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

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: Continue to work toward energy independence and continue to oppose Cap and Trade legislation. 

In homeland security and emergency preparedness: 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 ensure rural regions receive adequate and equitable access to the broad portfolio of homeland security and emergency preparedness programs.

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.

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; continue mandatory funding for Payment of Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and Secure Rural Schools Act and make these funds more flexible; and preserve the current tax exemption for municipal bonds.

The next MRPC board meeting will be held on Feb. 21, one week later than the regular meeting.