City, county, state and school officials filled the Paul Detrick Auditorium at Christian Hospital Thursday night for the .
More than 200 people sat and listened as eight legislators heard the collaborative legislative agenda set forth by North County Incorporated, Regional Development Association, the , Northwest Chamber of Commerce and the Maryland Heights Chamber of Commerce, which also sponsored the event.
Ann Brand of St. Louis Community College displayed a presentation in front of the room that concentrated on five major concerns addressed in the agenda.
The agenda items included:
- Economic Development: “The name of the game is jobs, jobs and jobs,” Brand said. Brand pointed out that a great deal of focus in the agenda was for business and job development, redeveloping in stressed areas as well as sustaining regional or area development.
- Education: For primary and secondary as well as higher education, funding has become a major issue, Brand said. The organizations collaboratively support appropriating funding for the educational systems as well as local autonomy of school districts. On the issue of open enrollment, which has become a hot button issue in a number of Missouri school districts, the organizations oppose the legislation of this kind as it doesn’t result in increasing student achievement according to studies.
- Health care: Brand said the balancing of affordability and accessibility of health care has become a widespread issue, but the agenda supports adequate funding of state health programs as well as affordable comprehensive access to health insurance.
- Transportation: The organizations strongly support providing adequate funding to transportation within the state, especially that which stimulates the economy and development of the St. Louis region. It opposes proposals that take away funding from the St. Louis area, though.
- General Issues: Three topics filled the range in this category, including predatory lending, tax structure review and taxation for local governments and telecommunications. The groups support legislation for stricter rules and penalties for those with deceptive lending practices; they support a tax structure review and maintaining current sales tax authority; as well as they support investments in technological structures.
After the presentation, legislators, including Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-District 7; Sen. Tim Green, D-District 13; Rep. Margo McNeil, D-District 78; Rep. Mary Nichols, D-District 79; Rep. Clem Smith, D-District 71; Rep. Sylvester Taylor, D-District 80; Rep. Churie Spreng, D-District 76; and Rep. , D-District 83, took the stage to give brief three-minute statements and answer questions from the audience.
Most used the time to discuss committee assignments, bills they're workingon as well as priorities for this year, while Zimmerman used the time to campaign for office.
“Please let everyone you know about the open secret,” he said. “Remind them to vote in the April 5 election.” Zimmerman is running for election for the St. Louis County assessor office. The municipal election is April 5.
Audience members’ had the opportunity to ask a few questions of the legislators, including subjects ranging from puppy mills to labor laws.
As for the event itself, Venus Martz, marketing assistant for North County Inc., reports that the organization thought it was a success.
“I think the legislators answered some relevant questions that were pertinent to the North County community,” she said.