“It’s about time.”
The utterance of that expression would not be unexpected in regard to two pieces of legislation that passed the state General Assembly in the final days of the recent session. Both bills – one to provide transportation funding and the other to establish a statewide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) have been fought for, for years.
Senate Bill 262 would increase the state’s fuel tax by 12.5 cents, phased in at 2.5 cents per gallon over five years. When fully phased in, it is estimated that the tax will generate $500 million per year.
In terms of its annual increase at the pump, the tax in not unlike the one put before voters in Proposition D that voters (54%) rejected in 2018. But the new tax comes with an option that Prop D did not have – residents with vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds can track their gas purchases and request a rebate of the new tax.
Sen. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) sponsored the bill. At press time, Gov. Mike Parson had indicated that he would sign the bill into law.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann noted: “Over the past 10 years, St. Charles County and its municipalities have provided more than $160 million in local and federal dollars to MoDOT to improve the state’s system within the county. We are pleased the legislature has taken action to make certain the infrastructure in our county receives the state funding necessary to meet St. Charles County’s growth and safety needs.”
The other long awaited bill was SB 63, which Parson was expected to sign. The bill would establish a Joint Oversight Task Force of Prescription Drug Monitoring, creating a long-awaited Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
In March 2016, St. Louis County took matters into its own hands and enacted legislation to establish and authorize the operation of a PDMP by Saint Louis County Department of Public Health (DPH). Eighteen months later, 48 jurisdictions, including St. Charles County, had enacted legislation to participate in the St. Louis County PDMP.
However, just as with the gas tax, and higher prices at the pump, not everyone is happy about the potential for a state PDMP. Rep. Justin Hill, who represents part of St. Charles County (R-District 108) has spoken out against SB 63 and claimed: “A statewide system would create a database of your prescription drug use — the state has no business maintaining it, and the state could give that list to the federal government.”