• Legislators Honored at Chamber Champions Dinner

    Sep 20, 2016
    The St. Louis Regional Chamber held its annual “Championing a Greater St. Louis” Dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis on September 19th.  The event recognized the service of members in the Illinois and Missouri General Assemblies, and acknowledged legislators who exhibited outstanding dedication and support for the Chamber’s legislative priorities in 2016 and the future.

    Chamber Policy Council Chair Jennifer Obertino, Vice President at AECOM, told the gathering that the Regional Chamber recognizes that public service is not easy, and sometimes doing the right thing is not always acknowledged or rewarded as an elected official. Speaking directly to the many legislators in attendance she thanked them for their service, dedication, and courage to make life better for everyone.

    Addressing the over 200 business leaders and elected officials, Regional Chamber President and CEO Joe Reagan emphasized the Chamber’s work in bringing people together for the benefit of a unified St. Louis region. Everyone, he said, has a role to play in driving equitable, abundant job creation and economic growth by advocating for public polices in three key areas: safety and security, equity and opportunity, and building and investing in regional infrastructure.  

    Warner Baxter, Chairman, President and CEO of Ameren and the new Board Chair for the Regional Chamber also thanked legislators for their leadership and dedication to inspiring a greater St. Louis, saying that “It is not just about fighting against legislative and policy initiatives…it is about being for something.” Baxter said the Chamber’s role in delivering this positive change to St. Louis is to drive economic development, market the region, prepare the workforce, and provide a policy perspective on the most important regional issues and priorities. 

    The 2016 honorees included Legacy Award winners Missouri Senators Joe Keaveny and Eric Schmitt for their tremendous public service and commitment to the Chamber’s priorities throughout their careers.  

    Sen. Eric Schmitt

    Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt Receiving the Legacy Award

    Sen. Joe Keaveny

    Missouri Sen. Joe Keaveny Giving his Acceptance Speech after Receiving the Legacy Award

    The Regional Chamber also recognized Missouri Reps. Mike Colona, Jim Hansen, Jeremy LaFaver, Sharon Pace, Caleb Rowden and Anne Zerr as Chamber Champions. These legislators helped to defeat SJR39, a far-reaching proposal to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community despite evidence of negative social and economic impact from similar legislation in other states. 

    Missouri Rep. Mike Kelley was recognized as a Chamber Champion for his sponsorship of a Missouri Earned Income Tax Credit, a Chamber priority in 2016, while Missouri Sen. Bob Dixon was recognized for his leadership in changing the use of deadly force for law enforcement.

    In addition to the Chamber Champion awardees, the Regional Chamber gave Advocate awards to Missouri Sen. Doug Libla for his efforts to obtain sufficient transportation funding by sponsoring a gas tax increase through the Senate, as well as Speaker of the House Todd Richardson for his continued commitment to meaningful ethics reform.

    The Chamber also recognized Missouri Sen. Kurt Schaefer and Missouri Rep. Tom Flanigan as Advocates. Sen. Schaefer and Rep. Flanigan led the effort to secure additional funding for the Missouri Technology Corporation, a public-private partnership that is critical to developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Missouri.

    The Regional Chamber bestowed four Catalyst Awards to up-and-coming lawmakers that demonstrate promise for advancing priority issues for the Chamber in the future.  Missouri Reps. Justin Alferman and Shamed Dogan and Illinois Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Jerry Costello, II received the awards for ethics reform efforts, work on the Illinois budget crisis, and economic development in Southwest Illinois, respectively.

    Joe Reagan

    Regional Chamber President & CEO Joe Reagan Addressing Guests at the Dinner

    See more photos from the event on the Chamber's Facebook page.
  • Illinois Public Affairs Network Discusses Funding Challenges in Higher Education

    Jul 28, 2016

    Leaders in higher education in Southwest Illinois spoke to a full room of Illinois Public Affairs Network members on Friday, July 15th at the Doubletree Hotel in Collinsville. Dr. Randy Dunn, President of the Southern Illinois University System, and Ken Scheffel, Vice President of Enrollment Services at Lewis and Clark Community College spoke to the budget challenges higher education institutions in Illinois are facing.  Sen. Dave Luechtefeld spoke to higher education funding from the legislature’s perspective and provided a legislative update.

    Kent Scheffel spoke to the impact of delayed and reduced funding from the state on Lewis and Clark Community College.  He cited a number of examples, including reducing the number of adjunct faculty by more than 30, which in turn reduced more than 60 class offerings and creates challenges for students.  Adult education classes have been cut, as has travel and supply budgets, and the school is in a semi-hiring freeze.

    Dr. Randy Dunn echoed many of the sentiments shared by Kent, and spoke to three major ways they are impacted, through dismantling, disinvestment, and disinterest.  He noted that the funding cuts and delays have led to a dismantling of their organizational infrastructure, disinvestment in the schools and in the communities they serve, and disinterest from students.  Both speakers noted that it was tough to watch the migration of students from Illinois to other states.  MAP grant applications are down by 18,000 and SIUE growth will slow next year, both indications of Illinois students going to colleges and universities in other states.

    Senator Luechtefeld gave some context, that higher education has faced significant cuts over the last three governors’ administrations.  It made it tough for them to be cut repeatedly, then hit with a budget crisis and state higher education institutions don’t have any spare resources to deal with it.

    Dr. Randy Dunn, President of the Southern Illinois University System speaks to the July IPAN meeting as fellow panelist Kent Scheffel of Lewis and Clark Community College looks on
    Dr. Randy Dunn, President of the Southern Illinois University System speaks to the July IPAN meeting as fellow panelist Kent Scheffel of Lewis and Clark Community College looks on.