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Southeast Missourian: Roy Blunt discusses EPA regulations, SEMO Port access and other issues with local business leaders

February 11, 2011

Access to the SEMO Port, health care reform, battling methamphetamine and EPA regulations were among topics addressed by Sen. Roy Blunt during a visit with local business leaders Thursday at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce.

The stop was one of four at Southeast Missouri Chambers on a two-day tour where Blunt said he wanted to listen more than talk.

Increasing EPA regulations could clamp down on local manufacturers looking to expand as the economy improves, said John Mehner, Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

Blunt said stricter EPA guidelines are likely to send local jobs overseas.

"Jobs, if they leave, will go somewhere where they care far less about what comes out of their smokestacks than we do now. That makes the [environmental] problems worse, not better, and we lose the jobs," he said.

Dan Overbey, executive director of the SEMO Port on the Mississippi River, urged Blunt to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get it to once again dredge the port annually. This year, the port used grant funds from the Missouri Department of Economic Development to cover the cost of dredging since the corps said the port didn't ship out enough to.

"When we built the port and spend 1.9 million local dollars on it, our agreement with the corps says they will dredge it. It says nothing about tonnage," Overbey said.

Blunt pledged to work with the corps on the issue but did not say how.

Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan asked Blunt to consider a federal law to require a prescription for Pseudoephedrine, saying it is costing the U.S. $24 billion a year to fight the production of methamphetamine.

The majority of the cases handled by the SEMO Drug Task Force involve meth, said Sgt. Kevin Glaser of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who heads up the group.

"Eliminating the precursors to meth is a fight worth having in congress," Blunt said, adding that he is sympathetic to the idea of people having to make a trip to the doctor's office in order to get pseudoephedrine.

Concerns about the effect of health care reform on businesses' bottom line were raised by Magnet executive director Mitch Robinson.

"Businesses are saying, 'What is Washington going to do to us next," and they're holding their cards very close to their vest. This uncertainty is an impediment to taking risks," Robinson said.

Blunt said he supports the recent court decisions to repeal the health care reform bill signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.

"The government can not force people to buy a commercial product," Blunt said. "If that provision goes, I think the whole thing goes."

Greater access to primary health care services and allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, however, are good provisions of health care reform, Blunt said.


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