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Advocating for You - May, 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 May.


FEDERAL


Congressional Staff Tour
The KC Chamber played host to 27 Capitol Hill staffers May 30-June 1 during its 8th biennial Spotlight on Greater KC Congressional Staff Tour and Issues Workshop. This year's Spotlight included interactive sessions and tours on the following regional federal policy priorities:
  • A Better KCI (tour) and the region's need for a new air terminal that will support business and air service growth into the future.
  • Infrastructure challenges and opportunities (boat and bus tours) including the Buck O'Neil Bridge, Lewis & Clark Viaduct, the regional levee system and the Clean Water Compliance Act.
  • Workforce development including a dialogue between some of the region's major employers and the DC staffers about what is working and opportunities to scale successful workforce development programs and incentives.
  • Global trade policy and a discussion of how US initiatives like NAFTA, the Ex-Im Bank and many trade agencies are supporting billions to the Kansas City regional economy while supporting thousands of regional jobs.
  • Health care and the local impact of the American Health Care Act passed in May.
  • The innovation ecosystem and the need to reduce regulations and barriers to starting a business.
The two-and-a-half-day tour included staff from the offices of US Senators Roy Blunt, Claire McCaskill, Jerry Moran, and Pat Roberts and from the offices of US House members Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, Vicki Hartzler, Lynn Jenkins, Roger Marshall, and Kevin Yoder. The Chamber extends its thanks to Spotlight co-hosts Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, H&R Block, AT&T, Cerner, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Hallmark, KC Southern, Port KC, Ride KC, Truman Medical Center, UMB and Spotlight dinner partners HNTB, Husch Blackwell, JE Dunn, McCown Gordon, and the University of Kansas.


MISSOURI


Rate the Session Luncheon
The Chamber's Missouri Legislative Wrap-Up Luncheon was held on Friday, May 19 at The American Restaurant to provide comment on the recently concluded 2017 Missouri legislative session. Guests were Dave Helling, member of the Kansas City Star's Editorial Board; Brian Ellison, host of KCUR's Statehouse Blend Missouri, and a host and contributor at KCUR focusing on Missouri; and Nancy Giddens, principal of the Giddens Group and, along with Shannon Cooper, Chamber lobbyists. Around 100 government and public affairs professionals from area companies attended. Highlights of the discussion included the successes and failures of the session, including topics such as Right to Work, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, and no change in transportation funding. 

End of Missouri Session
The first regular session of the 99th General Assembly ended on May 12 as prescribed by the state's constitution. Most consider this a pro-business session, with issues such as Right to Work and significant tort reform passing after many years of attempts. The so-called bathroom bill did not advance. The legislature also passed a bill to fully fund the education formula and Real ID, which allows Missouri to conform with federal law on the issuing of drivers' licenses and IDs. The matching state funds to match the local pledges for building a new Conservatory of Music and Dance across from the Kauffman PAC was passed by the legislature and now awaits the Governor's signature. Sadly, several important issues did not cross the finish line including PDMP - the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and Arbitration.


KANSAS


Taxes
As the Kansas Legislative Sessions move past the 100 day mark, the KC Chamber continues to advocate for a balanced tax structure that acknowledges the economic realities and the unique competitive environment in the greater Kansas City region. Chamber lobbyist Sandy Braden has spent a good part of May meeting with leadership in both chambers as they try to find the votes necessary for a new tax package that will help the state close the estimated $1 billion gap in the 2018 and 2019 budget period.  The Chamber has been closely watching measures to reduce sales tax exemptions to make sure professional services remain exempted. The Chamber continues to encourage legislators to consider the health merits of including a tobacco tax increase in the mix of revenue enhancements to close the budget gap.

Conceal and Carry in Health Facilities
Last week the KC Chamber issued an alert asking its 2200 members to contact their State Senators to urge them to support Senate Substitute for House Bill 2278. The legislation would allow state mental hospitals, governmental hospitals, including The University of Kansas Health System, and community mental health centers to prohibit firearms within their facilities. The KC Chamber is concerned about the safety and security of Kansas citizens and believes allowing guns in environments that are already rife with tension and anxiety such as healthcare institutions and mental health facilities is bad for the people in these facilities and bad for the economic opportunities that are derived from these important community services.  
Beginning July 1, 2017 Kansas state-and community-owned health care facilities and mental health facilities must allow those 21 or older to have concealed firearms in buildings that do not have security measures, including metal detectors. This law will be costly to implement and enforce, and will impede safety in these institutions, including KU Health System and KU Medical Center. Senate Substitute for HB 2278 will allow these institutions to regulate concealed carry on their premises.


LOCAL


Buck O'Neil Bridge
City leaders are rightly concerned about the future of the Buck O'Neil Bridge, formerly known as the Broadway Bridge, an important arterial across the Missouri River connecting KC's downtown area to the Northland. The bridge carries 44,000 vehicles daily and is essential for thousands of Kansas Citians getting to and from work each day. Several months ago MODOT notified the city that the bridge's condition had eroded more than originally thought and thus would be shut down for repairs beginning in 2019 for a period of 18 -24 months and a cost of $50M which the state will cover. City officials are scrambling to explore alternative plans which will hopefully include a new bridge and far less time for bridge closure.

Bond Update
Check out the city's website here if you are interested in the projects to be funded first as a result of the successful passage of the April property tax increase for infrastructure approved overwhelmingly by the voters.    

Streetcar Update
The process that will determine whether or not the initial street car line will be extended south on Main from Union Station to UMKC is underway. For more information, check out this recent Kansas City Star article/editorial.