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Advocating for You - June, 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 June.


The arduous 2017 Kansas Legislative Session finally came to a close June 10 after 113 days with the KC Chamber chalking up some success in its priority areas outlined below.

State Budget, Revenue, and Taxes
After many fits and starts, the legislature passed and subsequently overrode the Governor's veto of a bill that will take the income tax structure back to three brackets and end a tax exemption for LLCs and Sub S. corporations, ending the "tax experiment" passed by the 2012 legislature. The Chamber had called for a structural fix to the state tax structure and revenue plan that acknowledged the economic realities of the state and instituted reasonable tax rates for all income-earners. The new tax law is expected to bring more than $1.2 billion to the state over the next two-year budget period.

School Finance
Legislators passed a new K-12 education finance formula in the final days of the veto session that will generate a net increase of $488 million for public education over the next two years and fund all-day kindergarten and increase funding for early childhood education. The bill also allows the local option budget (LOB) to continue and expands a voucher-like system in the state. The Chamber has called for increased funding for K-12 and early childhood education including funding for all-day kindergarten, has supported local authority provided by the LOB and opposed expansion of vouchers. Many still believe the school funding increase passed this session is inadequate because the base per-pupil funding of $4,006 is far below the $4,400 per pupil amount used in 2008. 

Conceal and Carry
While the KC Chamber had advocated for the right of educational, government and healthcare institutions to set their own regulations for the carrying of firearms on their premises, the conceal and carry bill that passed the legislature will only apply to public hospitals and mental health facilities allowing them to prohibit guns at their facilities. On July 1 a new state law will take effect in which Kansas colleges, universities and government buildings will be required to allow concealed firearms on premises unless they have prescribed and expensive security measures in place.

Medicaid Expansion
The effort to expand Medicaid in Kansas went down to defeat in March when the House was unable to override Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a bill that would have expanded the health care program to thousands of low-income people in the state. While some thought an expansion measure might come back as an amendment in the veto session, it did not materialize. The override vote was three votes shy of the 84 needed to overcome the veto even though Medicaid expansion bill successfully passed both chambers with bipartisan support earlier this year.


UMKC Downtown Arts Campus  
The Chamber and others in Kansas City were surprised and disappointed this week with Governor Greitens' veto for a funding match to build a new Conservatory of Music and Dance adjacent to the Kauffman Center with $48 million to match the money already raised by the private sector. The Missouri legislature - both the House and Senate - had overwhelmingly approved the funding during the legislative session. University of Missouri system officials now say they will work to find a way to finance the proposal without state assistance. 
For more information, please read the KC Star article and the Governor's veto message taking aim at the project and the legislators who voted for it. In case you missed it, our friends across the state pulled no punches on the Governor's action or his methodology.

21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force
This task force will meet in Kansas City on Wednesday, July 26 from 1-3 p.m. in the Chamber's board room at Union Station. It was created and authorized during the 2017 legislative session, and will work to identify funding options for Missouri's aging transportation system in time to recommend for the 2018 legislative session. Representative Kevin Corlew of Kansas City serves as chair. Other Missouri officials on the task force include State Representatives Greg Razer (D-Kansas City), Joe Runions (D-Grandview), Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho), and Nate Tate (R-St. Clair); and State Senators Shalonn Curls (D-Kansas City), Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles), and Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis). The public is invited to attend and provide testimony. Please let us know if you plan to attend. For more information, please contact Kristi Wyatt or Tiffany Friend.

Buck O'Neil Bridge
Several months ago, Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) revealed that the condition of the aging, state-owned Buck O'Neil Bridge (formerly the Broadway Bridge) was deteriorating more quickly than expected and that beginning in 2019, the bridge would be closed entirely for up to two years at a cost of $50 million - just for repairs. The bridge is a major arterial with 45,000 vehicle trips daily. Concerned stakeholders are meeting with a group convened by The KC Chamber and the Northland Chamber and while the solution is not clear, the group is actively working with MODOT officials to arrive at a better solution such as total bridge replacement (costing up to $200 million) which would include new on/off ramps, wider lanes, and other structural improvements. Federal assistance is also being explored. 

MDNR Chief Meets with Chamber Energy Committee
The new Director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Carol Comer met with the KC Chamber Energy and Environment Committee June 26 to update industry leaders on the state's priorities for the coming years and share her perspectives on programs including air quality & air pollution control, water protection, soil & water conservation, environmental services. She told the group that she and her team have been working diligently on cutting red tape and reducing duplicative services, a process she compared to what is taking place at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She encouraged the committee members to reach out to her department with ideas for efficiencies and needs.


Kansas City, Missouri Committee
Councilwoman Jolie Justus was the special guest at this month's KCMO Committee and provided in-depth updates on KCI airport, the streetcar, UMKC downtown arts campus, and the status of the Buck O'Neil Bridge. The councilwoman discussed the "what" and "how" for a new KCI, and she commented on the public versus private financing debate. Throughout this long process, she expressed hope for a change in public sentiment as of lately. 

Justus praised the outreach of the Chamber, KCADC and Civic Council for their efforts in developing a presentation on the need for the new single terminal at KCI. To date there have been 35 presentations by Joe Reardon of the Chamber and Tim Cowden of the KCADC. 
Regarding the streetcar, the councilwoman strongly supports the expansion of the street car, and was encouraged that nearly 5,700 eligible KCMO residents received the mail ballot which must be completed and returned by August 1. Following that vote, there will be two more elections regarding the streetcar expansion: 1) Transportation Development District live election on October 10;  2) TDD funding mail-in election formation from January 9 to February 20, 2018.   

You are welcome to participate on the KCMO Committee which meets every other month on the fourth Tuesday and hear the discussion of important KC issues from KC leaders. Let Tiffany Friend know if you are interested and she will add you to the roster.  

Area Chambers Meet on KC Rising and KCI
John Murphy, co-chair of KC Rising and Partner/Immediate Past Chair at Shook, Hardy & Bacon delivered an update and overview on KC Rising to representatives from several local chambers. He explained that the three "big dot" measures of the initiative are the city's GDP, the number of quality jobs (jobs which require a post-secondary degree or pay above the national average), and the median household income. The initiative's plan is to ensure that we are in the top 10 of 31 other Metropolitan Statistical Areas (the 15 MSAs immediately smaller and the 15 MSAs immediately larger than us). KC Rising has identified three work groups: trade, ideas, and people, in order to accomplish these goals and progress will be measured against competing MSAs every year. Here is a link to KC Rising's Year two report.

Joe Reardon also gave the Better KCI presentation to the representatives from the local chambers and requested that they share the information (or schedule a presentation) with their members who should, in turn, share it with their employees. Click here for more information.


Mid-Year Economic Forecast Breakfast
The Chamber's Mid-Year Economic Forecast Breakfast this week was a robust discussion on the state of the local, national, and international economy to a packed Chamber board room. Tom Butch, executive and Chamber board member moderated the discussion. Waddell & Reed's Phil Sanders and Derek Hamilton as well as Mid-America Regional Council's Frank Lenk discussed the economy; including the job market post-election, the state of GDP, and the stock market, etc. Mark your calendar for the Chamber's next discussion on the economy - the Economic Forecast Breakfast on Friday, October 27 at 7:30 a.m. at the Downtown Marriott. Contact Tiffany Friend for more information.

Suggested Summertime Reading
For those looking for the latest in public policy and politics.
  1. Shattered by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes: if you had your fill of the 2016 Presidential contest, this book is probably not for you. But like some of us, if you want to know the back story and inside scoop, I recommend this book focusing on Hillary Clinton's doomed campaign. The book covers Clinton's unexpected strong challenge, first from Bernie Sanders in the primary and Donald Trump in the general. The story highlights the intersection of data/analysis vs. intuitiveness in modern campaigns as well as the significant level of in-fighting and disagreement on the part of Clinton's campaign team. Throughout the book, one gets the impression that HRC felt her campaign's direction was not quite right, but she was unwilling or unable to correct it. This inside story has been disputed by campaign staffers but it does a great job of presenting the enormity of waging a national campaign for President of the U.S. It's been rumored the book will become a made-for-TV series sometime in the future.
  2. Evicted by Matthew Desmond tells the story of Americans not totally homeless and nowhere near financially stable. These people, drastically overcharged on rent and shockingly underserved on housing quality, move, almost always forcibly so, from place to place with a frequency that causes little wonder as to why their lives are in shambles. Unable to find (or keep) a job, haunted by poor decisions, without food on the table or health insurance protecting illness and injury, a vicious cycle of scraping together just enough to pay an overpriced rent soon emerges. The subjects of Evicted are often ineligible to reside in homeless shelters or receive similar benefits, making their hunt for housing ever more frantic. Centered on citizens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Evicted focuses on an epidemic that no one outside of this situation has talked about, studied, or even noticed, until now. Review by Nellie Kassebaum, Chamber intern and KU student.
  3. Dark Money by Jane Mayer: the story of the Koch Brothers from Wichita and the involvement by like-minded fellow billionaires to influence American politics is an important story on a grand scale. The book covers the Koch Brothers unusual upbringing to their estrangement from each other to the wildly successful story of the Koch's business empire. But beyond their business acumen, they, particularly David, have an obsession with changing the political climate in the U.S. The wealth of the two brothers is estimated at $15B and they are willing to invest plenty in their political endeavors. Throughout the book is the theme of disdain for government and an unsurpassed willingness to put their money where their beliefs lie. With heightened public and media attention on so-called dark money nationally and right here in Missouri, this book is full of detailed information on how it works.