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Greetings from your Missouri Capitol, hope all of you have had a chance to get out and enjoy this beautiful fall weather. I'm beginning to notice some of the leaves turning color so one of the most beautiful seasons here in Missouri is close at hand. It's been a busy time here at the Capitol during the past two weeks with the highlight being the Bicentennial/Inaugural Parade and Ball.

The parade had to be one of the finest I've witnessed in a very long time and the number of bands that came to our city was impressive as was their performances. It was indeed a hot day but that didn't stifle the crowds from lining the parade route from beginning to end. Then the evening was capped off with the inaugural grand march and ball. The entire day was fun to be a part of and to be able to share it with my family was very special.

This past Friday ushered in a new tax that was controversial at best, but went into effect and that is the gas tax. Missouri's gas tax will increase for the first time in 25 years, but Missourians who don't want to pay the increase have an option.

The tax increased 2.5 cents Friday, with more incremental increases every July 1 until it reaches a total increase of 12.5 cents in 2025. The Department of Transportation estimates the increase, when fully implemented, will generate another $460 million annually for the state's roads and bridges.

Those who don't want to pay the increase will be able to apply for a refund. The Department of Revenue will provide a form for applicants to fill out. A final version is expected to be available, either digitally or by paper copy, by the time applications can be accepted July 1-Sept. 30 of 2022.

The initial increase has been estimated at about $1 a month for the average Missouri driver. Once it's fully phased in the increase will be approximately $60 per year, depending on how much fuel each driver consumes.

The House Transportation Committee chairwoman said the department has been running about $800 million behind what it needs for road work, per year. The increase will cover a significant portion of that gap, and will also put Missouri in position to draw federal dollars from an anticipated infrastructure bill.

The gas tax increase became law when Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 262, which passed out of the House with a final vote of 104-52.

Missourians who received the Pfizer vaccine can now receive a booster shot at least six months after their initial series. Following federal guidance issued from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has amended the state's standing order for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine administration for those who are eligible for a booster shot.

According to CDC guidance:

- People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster;

- People aged 5064 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster;

- People aged 1849 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster; and

- People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting (e.g. frontline medical workers, teachers, and first responders) may receive a booster.

The list of medical conditions categorized as high-risk by the CDC is available at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html. Missourians with an underlying medical condition are encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider about whether a booster shot is right for them.

To find out how you can get a free COVID-19 vaccine:

- Check for vaccine appointments at Vaccines.gov, where you can search for availability by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer).

- Call the CDC's COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (or TTY 1-888-720-7489). Help is available in multiple languages.

- Locate local vaccination events in Missouri at MOStopsCovid.com.

- Seniors and homebound adults can make arrangements using information at MOStopsCovid.com/seniors

- Missouri DHSS COVID-19 Public Hotline, 1-877-435-8411, from 7:30 a.m.7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Taking the vaccine is a personal choice and I endorse your personal freedoms to make that choice. I would recommend taking it, but that is a choice you and your family need to make.

That's all I have time for in this column but as always, my door is always open and I welcome your comments and concerns for District 60 so stop by or give me a call.

State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 60th District and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.

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