Five Missouri state representatives and one senator updated EDC members on the 2021 legislative session during a meeting of the Civic and Legislative Affairs Committee May 18.
Clay County Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte served as master of ceremonies and introduced the featured guests: representatives Josh Hurlbert (R-12); Maggie Nurrenbern, (D-15); Chris Brown (R-16); Wes Rogers (D-18); Mark Ellebracht (D-17); and Senator Lauren Arthur (D-17).
Major topics developed quickly and included the failure to fund voter-approved Medicaid expansion, passage of gas tax increases to fund road and highway work, passage of a criminal justice ombudsman bill and creation of a prescription drug monitoring system.
With a mix of republican and democratic voices, both sides of the presentations were relatively balanced. Several of the state leaders also noted the Northland delegation works well together.
“I was heartened by the bipartisanship on several key bills,” Sen. Arthur noted.
Gas Tax Agreement
One example involved a fuel tax increase that would add 2.5 cents to the current 17-cent-per-gallon fuel tax beginning in October. If signed by the governor, it would pay for road and bridge repairs and rise over the next five years to a 12.5-cent-per-gallon hike. The legislators noted that the fast-growing Northland is especially in need of maintenance and improvements that would be earmarked by the funds.
“We need the infrastructure to support our growth,” Nurrenbern said.
Hurlbert agreed. “It’s the number one thing for our economic development,” he said. “Infrastructure is always in the top three when a company is looking to move here. It’s an investment in Missouri’s future.”
Another area of widespread agreement involved the so-called Wayfair use tax, which would allow cities and counties to tax online businesses like local retail businesses.
Less agreement was evident on other issues, including failure to fund voter-approved expansion of Medicaid and “home rule” for the Kansas City Police Department, one of the few major departments in the nation governed by a state-appointed board. Other less contentious topics included the program to monitor prescription drug sales to help prevent abuse and protection of businesses and schools from lawsuits over COVID infections.
Bills passing the legislature will go to the governor for signing before becoming law.
Held in person and by Zoom videoconference, the event included an extensive question and answer session. Several themes developed there, including the need for better rural internet services. EDC Executive Director David Slater noted the internet issue is felt all across the Northland.