A new bill filed in the Missouri Legislature to allow Franklin County to join the Bi-State Development Agency has taken a step toward passage.
A hearing was held Wednesday by the House Local Government committee on HB 1809 sponsored by State Rep. Nate Tate, R-St. Clair, and after further review by members next week, should be placed back on the formal House calendar for votes by the full body.
“I don’t anticipate any issues,” Tate said. “I feel really good about it passing.”
Tate added a very similar Bi-State bill passed both the House and Senate last year but narrowly missed final approval because of infighting and time constraints in the final days of the session.
Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer testified at the hearing Wednesday as well as Bi-State President and CEO John Nations.
“The hearing went very well,” Griesheimer said. “The only thing different from last year’s bill is added language that gives Franklin County a seat on the Bi-State board. That was Bi-State’s idea, not ours, but I’m fine with it.”
He added the board member would most likely be one of the county commissioners, or someone appointed by them.
Griesheimer added news headlines by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and KSDK-TV suggesting Metrolink expansion to Franklin County are false.
“That’s not what this is about,” Griesheimer said. “Fifteen years ago we had Bi-State bus service out to Pacific, and that was through a grant. Once the grant money dried up that was it.”
Passage of legislation by the Missouri General Assembly, is just one of a three-part process required by any entity who wishes to join Bi-State since it spans two states and has a federal charter.
Identical legislation will have to be passed in the Illinois General Assembly and State Rep. Jerry Costello Jr. is expected to file a bill on that side of the river later in this session.
Griesheimer added he would also be reaching out to U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer about carrying the bill to Washington.
A formal membership to Bi-State would not cost the county anything on the front end in the form of dues.
Eventually, there would have to be some type of tax to residents to fund transit programs and that would have to go to voters.
Bi-State President and CEO John Nations told The Missourian he welcomes Franklin County with open arms and said once membership is achieved it will be up to the county to decide what its needs are and if any public transportation services may be implemented.
“I would love to see more mass transit activities in the county,” Griesheimer said. “A large section of our population drives to St. Louis every day for work and buses or light rail to this area would be a great asset for residents.”
In addition to its mass transit pursuits, Bi-State is also involved in public transportation and tourism projects to strengthen the $8 billion interstate commerce system in the St. Louis metro area.
State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, has filed an identical bill (SB 757) to Tate’s in the Missouri Senate just as he did last year as well.