Missouri’s senior senator addressed the opioid epidemic, rural broadband, the growing economy and a large Poplar Bluff manufacturer during a Wednesday address to the Missouri House in Jefferson City.

Senator Roy Blunt addresses the Missouri House on April 17, 2019, as House Speaker Elijah Haahr (left) listens (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Senator Roy Blunt (R), who’s in his second Senate term, says the leading cause of accidental death in Missouri and the nation is drug overdose.

“I met with some firefighters the other day from Maryland Heights, they said they’re ten times as likely to respond to a drug overdose as a fire,” Blunt tells the House.

Maryland Heights is a St. Louis suburb, located near I-270.

Senator Blunt is calling on the state Legislature to approve prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) legislation. Missouri is the only state without a PDMP, which is an electronic database that collects data on controlled substance prescriptions within a state.

The House has approved PDMP legislation from State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, by a 103-53 vote. The Senate PDMP version, which is sponsored by State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, has been approved by the Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee. Mr. Luetkemeyer’s bill is now on the Senate’s informal calendar.

Senator Roy Blunt addresses the Missouri House in Jefferson City on April 17, 2019 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

The 2019 session ends on May 17.

Like he did during his 2018 address to the House, Senator Blunt focused as well on rural broadband.

Blunt says broadband in the next decade will be as important as the telephone 50 years ago. He says 51 percent of rural Missourians lack access to high-speed broadband.

“You know a kid that lives two miles from school ought to be able to do their homework with the same information available to them as a kid that lives right next to school,” says Blunt.

Blunt says the federal government funding bill recently signed into law by President Donald Trump provides $550 million for a pilot rural broadband grant and loan program.

State Rep. Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal, has filed bipartisan legislation that requires the state Department of Economic Development (DED) to maintain a record of all the funding obtained under what’s known as the “Broadband Internet Grant Program.”

The House Utilities Committee has approved Representative Riggs’ House Bill 1162 by a 13-0 vote.

Riggs says one of his constituents is state Department of Agriculture (MDA) Director Chris Chinn of Clarence. Riggs tells Missourinet Director Chinn has to drive to a McDonald’s restaurant in another northeast Missouri town to have the broadband needed to upload veterinary records.

Senator Blunt also addressed the issue of tariffs, which has divided some Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s decision to grant tariff exclusions to southeast Missouri’s Mid-Continent Steel and Wire is being praised by Blunt.

During a media briefing with Capitol reporters after his address, Blunt tells Missourinet the decision took longer than expected, because of the number of requests for relief.

“When you talk about aluminum and steel, you’re talking about everything from steel nails to aluminum cans and bass boats and cars and airplanes,” Blunt says.

Blunt says he spoke to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross several times about the issue. Mid-Continent is the nation’s largest nail manufacturer.

Blunt says their Poplar Bluff workforce has decreased from 600 to about 300 employees. He says Mid-Continent now has the opportunity to bring jobs back to Poplar Bluff.

Missouri’s growing economy also was mentioned by Blunt. He says Missouri’s unemployment rate is 3.2 percent, which is lower than the national average.

Blunt says the national economy is also doing well.

He says that in March and for the 12 previous months, there were more available jobs in the United States than people looking for work.

Blunt tells the House that’s the first time in American history that has happened.

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