CHARLESTON - A legislative assistant for the Bryan Cave law firm in Jefferson City would like to see Mississippi County join a coalition for area counties and cities and form "a solidified voice for Southeast Missouri."
"There's a lack of representation for Southeast Missouri in Jefferson City," said Shanon M. Hawk during Thursday's county commission meeting. As an example, she noted how area roads and bridges "are just crumbling and falling apart."
Hawk said she was providing a follow-up to her letter reviewed by commissioners last week which offered "information about our firm as well as a list of legislators I've spoken with about the coalition we're forming,"
Hawk said St. Louis and Kansas use lobbyists to continue to make sure their interests are kept at the forefront in Jefferson City - a job she has been doing for Poplar Bluff for the last two years.
Poplar Bluff is the only southeast Missouri city other than Cape Girardeau, however, with any of this type of representation. Hawk said Cape Girardeau will not be a part of the coalition as they have different interests.
Last session, over 2,000 bills were filed, according to Hawk, "and I, unfortunately, read all of them."
In addition to monitoring legislative action, Hawk said she will stay on top of regulatory matters by working with Missouri departments of transportation, natural resources, labor relations, economic development and others.
As she works only two blocks from the capitol, Hawk said she can make sure legislators pay attention to Southeast Missouri interests "because I know them and I'm right there."
She said Stoddard and Butler counties are already on board, and she is hoping to recruit Scott, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Dunklin, and Wayne counties. "The strength is in numbers," Hawk said. Hawk also plans to meet with Charleston Mayor David Brewer next week.
The coalition's money will not be used for political contributions, according to Hawk. The coalition will elect a board and Hawk will serve as executive director. "I do all the legwork."
Hawk said she plans to have around four meetings per year: one while the legislature is in session to advance bills that help the coalition or defeat those contrary to their best interests, and another two or three meetings during the off-session times.
While the legislature is in session, Hawk plans to issue a report every Friday via e-mail, fax or overnight mail as well as updates on "hot topics," bill tracking reports and even "hallway gossip" items.
During the off-session times, Hawk will publish a monthly newsletter as well as special issues for important information as it is released.
Hawk said annual dues for counties is $10,000. Cities will have their cost based upon population. She said she is willing, however, to discuss options "to bring you on board."
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg asked if the county could share the cost with Charleston and East Prairie as their interests are so closely intertwined.
Commissioners said they would like to hear back from Hawk after she has contacted Charleston and East Prairie officials.