By Grace Zokovitch St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY — More state workers should have the option to work remotely in Missouri, says the sponsor of a bill designed to launch the state toward that goal.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Louis RiggsR-Hannibal, would create a “work-from-anywhere task force for Missouri state employees.”
The bill says the task force will work to determine “best policies and practices” for allowing state employees to work remotely and evaluate all types of remote work arrangements across the board. the state.
The proposal puts different stakeholders on the working group, Riggs said, including members of the Legislative Assembly, government departments and the tech industry.
“At one point, 25% of the state was working remotely. It was awesome. We had 90% job satisfaction across the board,” Riggs said, citing data from the Office of Administration. “The problem is that a lot of people who wanted to take the remote work option couldn’t because they didn’t have enough internet.”
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Missouri’s broadband development is expected to see a large influx of funding this fiscal year, with millions set aside by the US federal bailout law and bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The proposal joins six other bills Riggs has introduced this session to expand broadband. Expanding internet access, affordability and speed, he said, is vital to the future of the state – “from a workforce perspective, but also from the point of view of the quality of life”.
The pandemic “has fundamentally shifted the ground beneath our feet,” Riggs said. Beyond remote work, reliable, high-speed internet service now means access to online education, healthcare and other vital resources.
Missouri’s standards have lagged the federal government since 2018, said Riggs, who served as chairman of the Special Interim House Committee on Broadband Development Last year.
“When we see counties in Missouri with double-digit population losses, we’re also looking at areas that have really bad internet speeds and access,” Riggs said. “The two are inextricably linked.”
Riggs cited Ralls County in the northeast part of the state as a rural county that has been successful in developing broadband infrastructure and mitigating the steeper population decline plaguing many similar rural counties in Missouri.
People may be drawn in by lower property taxes and access to Mark Twain Lake, Riggs said, and allowing them to work remotely keeps them in the area.
“They see new construction; they see people who were normally only up on the weekends and stay there all year round,” he said. “Why? Because they have better internet.
The bill is slated for a House committee vote on Tuesday.
The legislation is House Bill 2327.