CHARLESTON - Mississippi County commissioners received a preview of federal legislation during their regular meeting Thursday.
Jeff W. Glenn, director of the Southeast Missouri District for U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, first fielded questions from commissioners regarding the St. John's Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project which has been held up recently by challenges to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' mitigation figures.
"We're going to make some calls this week at the state level," Glenn said. "We just need to get past this - it's time to see some dirt moved there."
Commissioners also discussed with Glenn attempts by Environmental Defense to lure local officials into supporting an alternate project.
"The Senator is a proponent of the St. John's project," Glenn affirmed.
Glenn then turned toward legislation making its way through the U.S. House and Senate.
"We're cautiously optimistic we're going to see a highway bill this week," Glenn said. "That thing is overdue - two and a half years overdue."
Allocations in the federal highway program for Missouri may improve slightly under the new bill, according to Glenn, with the state's return going up from 92 cents to 93 cents per dollar.
State departments of transportation would also get a six-year funding preview if the bill passes, which Glenn said should result in larger projects being initiated.
"We're going to be fairly close on an energy bill," Glenn continued.
He said the energy bill would boost the usage of ethanol from the present 3.4 million gallons to 4 billion next year and 7.5 billion by 2012.
Glenn said a 10-percent ethanol blend can lower the price at the pump by 3 cents. "The hope is you'll see some impact at the pump," he said.
The primary goal, however, is to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil and that auto manufacturers will follow the lead and produce more alternative-fuel vehicles, according to Glenn.
"The big thing for us is it helps the corn growers around here," he said.
Glenn said federal subsidies can help alternative fuels get started as they can be expensive to produce until technology is developed which can lower their cost.
Responding to a question from Commissioner Martin Lucas regarding the possibility of new nuclear power plants, Glenn said opposition to the transportation of nuclear waste across various states is likely to prevent the construction of any new nuclear power plants.
Glenn said the debate on judicial nominees is slated for after the legislature's August break.
Asked about Talent's position on the Supreme Court's ruling that governments can use eminent domain for private economic development projects, Glenn said: "He has said on record that he does not agree with the decision."
Glenn said legislators are still working on a federal Combat Meth Act which would make pseudoephedrine a schedule 5 controlled substance.
He said when states like Missouri pass laws that limit pseudoephedrine, meth cookers often just go into a neighboring state to get the ingredients. "So we're going to try to knock it out at the federal level," Glenn said.
The federal meth law would also restrict the sale of liquid and gel cap forms of pseudoephedrine in addition to the pill forms unlike many state laws.
"We've got to get it out of our neighborhoods," Glenn said.
Sheriff Keith Moore said he has found 50-60 meth labs in the county since taking office. "It's just an everyday battle," he said.
In other business during Thursday's meeting:
* Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said the road and bridge department has removed the east side of the old bridge at Four Mile Pond on County Road 518.
All the steel has been removed and the west side of the bridge should be removed today.
Blumenberg said the bridge was built in 1922.
* Commissioners agreed to solicit for bids again for mowing on county ditches after Lucas advised a mower he knows should be ready to bid on the project now.
During the previous solicitation for bids, no bids were received as all area mowers were busy on other projects, according to commissioners.
* The county still has vacancies on the Industrial Development Authority and Senate Bill 40 boards to fill, according to County Clerk Junior DeLay.