Missouri’s governor has signed a $29.7 billion state operating budget, which takes effect on Monday. It includes $301 million in bridge bonding funding, contingent upon the awarding of a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant.
The bridge bonding measure is a top priority for Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who sponsored the legislation. He tells Missourinet that U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R) is now working to obtain federal grant funding for a new I-70 bridge in mid-Missouri’s Rocheport.
“The effects it’s going to have on commerce and traffic and people and the ancillary roads that are going to be affected by the traffic that goes to them, it’s extremely important,” Schatz says.
State Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Director Patrick McKenna has warned that rehabilitation of the bridge will cause three to eight-hour backups, including 25-mile backups to Kingdom City “on a bad day.”
“Now it’s up to Senator Blunt to go to work for us, go to bat for Missouri and try to bring home some of that grant funding that will help us get that Rocheport bridge done,” says Schatz.
MoDOT says it would cost about $200 million to replace the bridge, which was built in 1960. The bridge is more than 3,000 feet long.
Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick has described I-70 as a focal point of business, as well as moving goods and services across the nation.
Meantime, Pro Tem Schatz is disappointed lawmakers didn’t approve prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) legislation this year. He’s already looking ahead to 2020.
“But I will tell you that we will come back next year and I have three more years in this chamber (Missouri Senate). And I will work every year until we get that thing accomplished,” Schatz says.
Missouri is the only state in the nation without a PDMP, which is an electronic database that collects data on controlled substance prescriptions within a state.
The House approved PDMP legislation from State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Scott City, by a 103-53 vote in February but the bill died in the Senate, primarily because of opposition from the Senate Conservative Caucus.
Senator Blunt has also called on lawmakers to pass PDMP, saying drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Missouri and the nation.
Blunt addressed the Missouri House in Jefferson City in April, noting that firefighters in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights tell him they’re ten times as likely to respond to a drug overdose as a fire.
Overall, Schatz says the 2019 session was successful, also citing passage of anti-abortion legislation and a bill aimed at attracting a $1 billion expansion at the sprawling General Motors (GM) plant in eastern Missouri’s Wentzville.
Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s full three-minute interview with Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, which was recorded on May 17, 2019 at the Statehouse in Jefferson City:
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