Legislators Touch On State, Local Issues at Chambers-NCI Reception

By Bob Lindsey

Community and business leaders attending the Legislative Reception for North County got to hear brief perspectives from elected legislators followed by questions on a wide range of questions such as  an Interstate 70 toll road, charter schools and the lack of accreditation at two school districts, and state efforts to start taxing Internet sales.

NCI 2012 Legislative Reception: Sen. Timothy Green, Rep. Tommie Pierson, Rep. Bert Atkins, Rep. Clem Smith, Rep. Margo McNeil, Rep. Rochelle Walton Gray, (front row), Rep. Sharon Pace, NCI President Rebecca Zoll, Sen. Jane Cunningham (Rep. Sylvester Taylor and Rep. Churie Spreng are not pictured but did attend)

While the conversation got interesting and political at times, there just wasn’t enough time to follow-up all the questions. But attendees had one-on-one opportunities after the 2-hour event to gain more specific insights from the elected state representatives and two senators.

The annual reception held at SSM DePaul Health Center Feb. 9 was a collaborative event, hosted by the Greater North County Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Heights Chamber of Commerce, North County Incorporated Regional Development Association, and the Northwest Chamber of Commerce.

It allowed area leaders to hear from state legislators about matters affecting North County and Missouri.  Program moderator Ann Brand, government relations liaison from St. Louis Community College, presented the 2012 North County legislative priorities on economic development, education, healthcare, transportation, and general issues.

State legislators in attendance were: Senator Jane Cunningham, Senator Tim Green, Representative Bert Atkins, Representative Margo McNeil, Representative Sharon Pace, Representative Tommie Pierson, Representative Clem Smith, Representative Churie Spreng, Representative Sylvester Taylor, and Representative Rochelle Walton Gray.

Legislators Respond on Issues

Senator Cunningham, R-District 7, which includes Hazelwood and parts of Florissant, gave her position supporting Catholic schools as an alternative to public schools though the use of vouchers.  On a related subjects, most of the Democratic legislators (the majority attending) don’t support charter schools and a some felt they have not exceeded public schools and sending public school students to other schools just hurt the public schools. State Rep. Thomas Pierson, D-69th District, pointed that although Riverview Gardens School District is currently unaccredited, it has many students that get college scholarships. He blames too many “transients” for the problems leading to unaccredited districts like Riverview and the City of St. Louis.

Most of the Democratic legislators oppose a voter photo ID requirement, proposed by Republications.  Rep. Margo McNeil- D. 78th District, said she is urging Gov. Jay Nixon to veto any legislature calling for such ID requirements.

“We would be disenfranchising the poor, the elderly and others who don’t have a driver’s license,” she said. Rep. Churie Spreng, 76th District, also opposed the voter photo ID legislation and would also urge the governor to veto such a bill. She said it could cost up to $7 million over three years to implement.

McNeil and several others are in favor of a sales tax on Internet sales from Missouri businesses. “Missouri needs the same tax code like 24 other states that tax Internet sales.”

She said the funds could help Missouri with “sustainable energy and gas thermal affordable energy” methods, which would save money and taxes.

Several legislators opposed eliminating the state income tax in favor of a sales tax and while acknowledging something has to be done on highway construction, they don’t favor a toll road for I-70.

Sen Tim Green, 13th District, said while I-70  “is way past” it’s need to be replaced, the current political climate in an election year means it’s very unlikely this year. Rep. Clem Smith-District 71, said he favors a federal effort for highway improvements nationwide, noting that the Obama administration has been discussing the instruction situation and funding.

North County Incorporated and the three local chambers collaboratively represent more than 1,000 area businesses and civic organizations.

 



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