Commission discusses federal legislative priorities at their February meeting.

Congressman Jason Smith and Senator Roy Blunt’s offices met with the Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s Board to review the commission’s federal legislative priorities that emphasize access to rural broadband.

The board also 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 they say “would improve traffic safety and flow.”

Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s board shared its federal priorities with Smith and Blunt’s office’s that they approved at their January meeting and will present to federal legislators in Washington D.C. in March. 

The following are the top federal priorities that Chairman Larry Miskel, Executive Director Bonnie Prigge and Assistant Director and Environmental Programs Manager Tammy Snodgrass will present to legislators during their trip to the Capitol:

•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.

The next Meramec Regional Commission Board meeting will be held on March 12.