The notion of lawmakers in Washington or Jefferson City “bringing home the bacon” has a quality both antiquated and enduring. In the nation’s capital, the longtime abuse of congressional earmarks led to their ban, making it more difficult for elected officials to supply constituents back home with funding for targeted projects. In Jefferson City, lean budgets have built-in limitations. Still, representative government relies on voices being heard in places where they matter. This area will have some advantages in the coming year.
North Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, representing St. Joseph and this region in the U.S. House since 2001, recently got picked by fellow Republicans to hold his party’s top position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It seems a good fit for the representative.
Graves has been a pilot since his teens, and he understands aviation from the runway level. He lives in a state with a large number of publicly maintained highways, ranking seventh nationally in state highway miles and fifth nationally in interstate miles. Missouri stands at the crossroads of the nation’s railway system, and Graves’ district remains bounded west and east by two of the country’s most significant waterways, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
While his focus will be on the broadest aspects of American transportation, including seeking out a revised manner of funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure improvements, Graves has an understanding of Northwest Missouri issues, and that means something.
In the state capital, Sen. Dan Hegeman, whose district includes all or part of 15 counties in Northwest Missouri, has been picked to chair the Appropriations Committee for his chamber. The job comes with a lot of weight, Missouri elected leaders having a constitutional mandate to deliver a balanced budget, and the Andrew County resident must negotiate a lot of interests and collaborate with many colleagues to fulfill this duty. We think the right senator got picked for this job.
Even in a peripheral way, a high-ranking representative in Jefferson City has a working knowledge of St. Joseph. The new speaker of the Missouri House, Republican Rep. Elijah Haahr of Springfield, got a pair of bachelor’s degrees from Missouri Western State University, Class of 2005, and served as student body president at this local institution.
Again, the mere presence of people in powerful positions does not ensure great tidings for the our region. All projects should be evaluated on merit. But having a seat at the table matters. And it helps all Missourians, and all Americans, that capable people have risen through the ranks from this area to give voice to future decisions.