ST. JAMES–Five Missouri legislators representing portions of the Meramec Region attended the Dec. 13 Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board meeting to share ideas with board members going into the upcoming legislative session.

In attendance were 16th District Sen. Dan Brown, Third District Sen.-Elect Gary Romines, 150th District Rep. Jason Smith, 122nd District Rep.-Elect Steve Lynch and 62nd District Rep.-Elect Tom Hurst.

The legislators discussed some of their expectations for 2013, and the board shared its list of state-level legislative priorities for the year.

The list contains 23 issues in seven categories that may come before the legislature in 2013 and MRPC's stance on those issues. The list began to take shape through a survey of board members more than two months ago, and the final version was approved by the board at the Dec. 13 meeting.

When it comes to transportation, MRPC board members learned that they share common goals with Brown. The organization's number one priority under the regional transportation category is funding the four-laning of Highways 63 and 50.

"With low interest rates it's probably a good time to talk about a bond," Brown said. "I've told (District 6) Sen. (Mike) Kehoe–he will be chairman of transportation it appears–that I would kill any bonding bill that he put forward unless Highway 63 north four-lanes was the first job that got done."

Other state-level priorities set by the MRPC board for 2013 include actively working to protect, maintain and expand Fort Leonard Wood, supporting legislation allowing school districts and other governmental bodies to join state employee pools for health care, opposing pre-filed legislation that would eliminate solid waste districts, requesting that legislators ensure rural areas receive a fair share in education dollars and supporting full funding for state mandates on local governments.

In January, MRPC staff and board members will spend a day at the state capitol delivering a report detailing each of the organizations priorities to legislators and discussing these issues with them.

In other business, the MRPC Board:

Approved changes to the MRPC bylaws adding nine more board members to the commission effective upon appointment. To meet Economic Development Administration (EDA) requirements, each county needed to appoint a new member to represent the for-profit sector and Phelps County was asked to appoint one new member to represent healthcare throughout the region. Appointments were made by county commissions prior to Dec. 31, 2012 to comply with EDA regulations.

Heard a report from Mark Kean, CPA of Kean and Company who performed audits on MRPC, MRB and related organizations. Kean delivered a clean audit opinion with no funding or significant issues of both MRPC and MRB, the best opinion available. He commended MRPC staff in its financial record keeping and management.

Learned that Vienna, Potosi and Rolla each applied for Missouri Department of Transportation Enhancement Grants, and those applications were ranked by the Transportation Advisory Committee.

Approved the needs and strategies portion of the updated version of the Public Transit-Human Service Transportation Coordination Plan for the Meramec Region.

Learned that Phelps, Washington and Gasconade counties are working towards certification as Work-Ready Communities through the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Approved MRPC's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for 2012 for submission to the EDA; and

Updated its procurement policy to ensure contractors are checked against the debarred list.

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. A professional staff of 27, directed by the MRPC board, 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.

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