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Advocating for You - April, 2017








The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce advocates for its membership in Missouri, Kansas, Washington, D.C., and local government. Below are the highlights of activity in April.


FEDERAL


Congressional Staff Tour
The KC Chamber will host 23 Capitol Hill staffers May 30-June 1 during its 8th biennial Spotlight on Greater KC Congressional Staff Tour and Issues Workshop. The Spotlight event is a three-day regional benchmarking tour that showcases regional opportunities, challenges, and policy priorities for congressional staffers. The two-and-a-half-day tour includes staff from the offices of US Senators Pat Roberts, Claire McCaskill, Jerry Moran, and Roy Blunt; and from the offices of US House members Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, Vicki Hartzler, Lynn Jenkins, Kevin Yoder, and Roger Marshall. The tour will focus on infrastructure needs, workforce development challenges, global trade policy, energy, and healthcare and innovation. Special thanks to Spotlight co-hosts Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, H&R Block, AT&T, Cerner, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Hallmark, KC Southern, Truman Medical Center, UMB, and Spotlight dinner partners HNTB, Husch Blackwell, JE Dunn, McCown Gordon, and the University of Kansas.

Missouri's Senior Senator Visits KC Chamber
Senator Claire McCaskill met with key Chamber and Civic Council leaders on April 13 to discuss a variety of issues on the national agenda including health care, tax reform, judicial selection, infrastructure, national security and much more. Senator McCaskill is the senior senator from Missouri and was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2007. Among her many committee assignments, she is ranking member for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: May 19 "Rate the Session" Luncheon!
Don't forget to join us on Friday, May 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The American Restaurant in Crown Center for an in-depth panel discussion of how the 2017 Missouri session faired with opinions and insight from Jason Hancock, the Kansas City Star's Government and Politics reporter; Dave Helling, the Kansas City Star's Political reporter; and Nancy Giddens, Principal of The Giddens Group. This is a new, never-done-before format that you will not want to miss! Lunch is $40 per person (Public Policy Council members receive two complimentary seats). Please RSVP to Tiffany Friend, friend@kcchamber.com , or (816) 374-5432. You can also register online here if you have an account.


MISSOURI


UMKC Conservatory Passes Missouri Legislature
HCR 19, the resolution that authorizes the issuance of $48 million in public bonds for the new UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, passed the Senate on Thursday. It previously passed the House. This bill authorizes the issuance of $48M in public bonds (to match $48M privately raised) for a new state-of-the-art facility to be located across from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. This bill is now on its way to the Governor, who must sign the bill.

Adjournment in sight
By law, Missouri's legislature adjourns Friday, May 12. With just two weeks left in the session, a lot of work remains, including:
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP): HB90 would create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program designed to limit doctor shopping and cut down on prescription drug abuse. Missouri is the only state in the nation not to have such a program. Amendments added in the Senate watered down some of the provisions and its future is unclear at this time.
  • Real ID: this would require the state to comply with national standards for procedures for applying for a driver's license or ID card which is necessary when boarding a plane or gaining admittance to military base. The Chamber strongly supports Rep. Kevin Corlew's bill which would bring Missouri into compliance with Real ID, but some legislators believe it could be an infringement of personal privacy and have objected to the bill. 
Stay tuned. Look for a full synopsis and report after May 12.


KANSAS


Tobacco Tax
As Kansas legislators continue to consider options for a tax package that will fund the projected $1 billion 2018-19 deficit, the KC Chamber continues to advocate in support of increasing the tax rates on tobacco products. The Chamber's Healthy KC initiative reports the cost of tobacco use to Kansans each year is more than $1 billion in health-related expenditures and lost productivity. This directly impacts the bottom line of all employers in the State. As reported in an earlier issue of Advocating for You, the Centers for Disease Control and Wall Street tobacco analysts report there is an visible link between businesses' financial health and the overall health of their workforce with tobacco cessation serving as one of the most important measures to improving workforce wellness. Data show increasing the cost of tobacco is one of the most effective ways to prevent use and encourage cessation.

STAR Bonds
While some State lawmakers are questioning the structure of STAR (Sales Tax Revenue) Bond legislation and reliance on these state-backed bonds to promote economic development, the KC Chamber is encouraging legislators to reauthorize the State's valuable STAR Bond legislation in the Veto Session that begins May 1. The STAR Bond program provides cash for entertainment or tourist developments repaid with local and state sales tax revenue generated by the new projects. The KC metro area has seen the critical value of STAR Bonds as officials, in December-five years ahead of schedule-made the last payment on these bonds used to develop the Village West shopping district in western Wyandotte County.

Lt. Governor at April KSA Meeting
Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer joined Representative Melissa Rooker as presenters at the Chamber's April Kansas State Affairs meeting. While the Chamber supports a proactive approach to Medicaid Expansion in order to close the coverage gap and reduce costs to employers, Colyer encouraged the group not to pursue Medicaid expansion until the federal government figures out its path forward on repeal or replace measures for the Affordable Healthcare Act. He touted the state's unemployment rate of 3.8 percent and continued growth in new business licenses. Rooker shared with the group her support for Medicaid expansion and provided a summary look at the current school funding bill, HB2410, in the House Education Budget Committee. Rooker said the bill includes full funding for all-day kindergarten, funds for targeted early childhood learning, improvements for bilingual and at-risk education, and progressive gradual increases in base per-pupil funding over the next several years.


LOCAL


KCMO on the Move- Passes Bond Improvements by Huge Margin
Mayor James, City Council and City Manager Troy Schulte are feeling justifiably proud since Kansas Citians passed an $800M bond package on April 4 financed by a modest increase in property taxes. The three ballot issues needed a super majority - 57.1% but ended up with approvals of up to 68%.
"Kansas City voters delivered a vote of confidence to the city, and I'd like to thank the business community of its help in making that happen," said City Manager Troy Schulte, "It's now up to us to deliver on that promise of rebuilding our infrastructure. This bond program will create  thousands of construction jobs over the next twenty years."
 
Voter approval of the bond program also allows the city to move forward with an entirely new sidewalk program which calls for the bond revenue to pay for sidewalk repairs citywide, while removing that burden from property owners. The City plans to make six million dollars in sidewalks repairs in Year One in order to eliminate the backlog of sidewalk spot repairs currently on the books.
 
"Since people want to live in neighborhoods with good sidewalks," said Schulte, "this will spur neighborhood revitalization, which means more and better housing options for the employees of KCMO businesses."

Question 3's $600M will be spent on streets, sidewalks and bridges throughout the city; Question 2's $150M will leverage funds from the federal government to mitigate flooding in parts of the city where flooding problems exist; Question 3's $50M for improvements such as a new city animal shelter in Swope Park; improvements for KC Museum in northeast KC and infrastructure improvements for disabled Kansas Citians, as required by ADA. The Chamber has consistently advocated for infrastructure improvements and the Chamber board was very supportive of the three questions.
 
Citizens should expect to see the construction work begin soon. The city manager will provide the city council with a plan in May. Once underway, the city will issue an annual report card that will identify which projects have been started/completed; how revenues have been spent and an overview of upcoming projects.

Now it's on to the New Single Terminal Facility at KCI
The vote on the single terminal facility at KCI has been duly considered by Chamber leaders for some time. At April's board meeting, Chamber Chair Karen Daniel thoroughly set forward the case for the new single terminal concept and Chamber board members echoed their support of the plan. Among the issues she presented include priorities for a better KCI:
  • Terminal to be paid for by airport users
  • Improved convenience and amenities
  • Increased access and destinations
  • Economic driver for regional growth and jobs
  • Stronger security and technology
  • Maintains KC as a major-league city
Business leaders and others believe the 45 year-old structure is simply not equipped to accommodate the larger modern aircraft of today. Taxpayers will not pay for the new terminal, but a public vote is necessary to proceed. The date of the vote has not been scheduled by Mayor and Council but could be as early as November 7. The Chamber, along with its business partners, are reaching out to members to offer to bring an education campaign to your business. If you are interested, please let us know by emailing wyatt@kcchamber.com.

Buck O'Neil Bridge
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) recently notified KCMO of their plan to shut down the state-owned Buck O'Neil Bridge (formerly Broadway Bridge), because of its deteriorating condition, beginning in 2019 for a two-year period. Repairs are estimated at $50M for a two-year period. A new bridge would cost a minimum of $150M. KCMO officials are scrambling to develop a solution and the city council has directed the city manager to "develop and recommend a regional funding strategy." At its April meeting the Chamber board adopted a position to work with city, state, federal officials and community partners to seek an alternative solution for the planned closing. 44,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily and closure would have an extremely detrimental impact on the region's employers, employees and economy. If you need more information or have thoughts, please email Kristi Wyatt at wyatt@kcchamber.com.