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Advocating for You - July, 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 July.


FEDERAL


Health Care Policy
As the US Senate deliberated a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and other health policy measures in July, the KC Chamber reached out to each of our US Senate offices to urge them to work toward thoughtful, orderly, and sustainable health care policy measures that will help reduce business costs and regulatory burdens of providing health care coverage and wellness support. The Chamber message and our 2017 health care policy position called for a Medicaid structure that increases efficiencies and avoids cost shifting to state budgets and maintains provider taxes at levels that allow Missouri and Kansas to sustain vital safety net coverage for children and families.

The Chamber message reminded the Senators that the business community believes there is an undeniable link between the financial health of our country and its business community and the overall health and wellness of our workforce, and encouraged a bipartisan process to advance commonsense reforms and improvements to the ACA. The 2017 Chamber federal health care policy position supports the following tenets regarding revised healthcare legislation.

Any repeal of the ACA must be paired with simultaneous passage of a comprehensive replacement policy. A “repeal and delay” approach will create profound instability, uncertainty and undue burdens for businesses and consumers.

Repeal measures must ensure a fair and competitive market for health insurance companies and be structured so that they do not increase the cost of health insurance products making it difficult for individuals to afford coverage.

Any freestanding repeal of the ACA must also fully repeal the Act's steep cuts to hospital payments - particularly Medicaid and Medicare DSH.

An ACA replacement law should not disadvantage states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA.

Immigration as a Workforce Development Tool
The Chamber has been communicating with our congressional offices in July regarding two different immigration policies that are likely to impact regional workforce needs and startup activity.
  • As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced July 10 that the Trump administration will delay (and plans to eventually eliminate) the International Entrepreneur Rule, the KC Chamber has joined with other chambers and entrepreneurism groups to encourage the administration to reconsider the potential elimination of the rule. The rule was scheduled to go into effect on July 17 and would have permitted certain international entrepreneurs to enter or remain in the U.S. if they could demonstrate a significant public benefit to the U.S. and show receipt of considerable capital investment from U.S. investors or large government grants. Tech investors, economists and many STEM field CEOs supported the rule, as did US Senator Jerry Moran who co-signed a letter to the then Secretary of Homeland Security. A New American Economy study estimates the program could create between 135,240 and 308,460 jobs over ten years. Countries including Canada, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom already grant entrepreneur visas to attract job creators.
     
  • The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act is currently making its way through the US House and aims to remove an archaic country of origin limit on the employment-based (EB) green card system. The EB green card has long been limited by a seven percent annual cap placed on each country (i.e., 7% of the green cards issued each year go to applicants from India while 7% go to those from Grenada). To put it in perspective, each year the US issues 140,000 EB green cards with seven percent allocated to applicants from India and each year there are 750,000 US workers from India on temporary visas trying to get green cards (many of them working for Kansas City area employers like Cerner and Black & Veatch). The Chamber is encouraging passage of the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act contained in House Resolution 392. The lead sponsor of the Act is Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder and the bill is cosponsored by Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, Roger Marshall and Congresswomen Vicki Hartzler and Lynn Jenkins and over 200 other bipartisan members of the US House.
Energy Star Program
The KC Chamber Energy & Environment Committee continues to monitor modifications and proposed reform measures for federal energy policy and regulations with ongoing updates on energy policy at every 2017 Committee meeting, most recently focusing on proposed budget cuts for the Energy Star rating system. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee voted this month to slash 40 percent of the funding for the Energy Star program in the 2018 budget. A preliminary White House budget called for cutting the program entirely, leaving just $5 million in place to close out operations and transfer Energy Star to a non-governmental operator. The Chamber supports continued operation of existing programs to promote energy efficiency and renewables. Just this year the city of Kansas City, MO has been ranked 16th on the EPA’s list of top cities for Energy Star-certified buildings.


MISSOURI


21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force
Transportation is a major workforce issue and unfortunately, funding in Missouri is not keeping up with the need. The Chamber is very engaged in the discussion and search for solutions. A state-wide committee met at the Chamber last week and over 170 officials and citizens attended. With over 160 participants, the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force, met on Wednesday, July 26 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. Task force members are:
  • Representative Kevin Corlew of Kansas City - chair
  • Representative Greg Razer (D-Kansas City)
  • Representative Joe Runions (D-Grandview)
  • Representative Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho)
  • Representative Nate Tate (R-St. Clair)
  • Senator Shalonn Curls (D-Kansas City)
  • Senator Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia)
  • Senator Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan)
  • Senator Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles)
  • Senator Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis)
  • Patrick McKenna, MoDOT
  •  Pat Dixon, Department of Economic Development
  •  Col. Sandra Karsten, Department of Public Safety
  • Will Scharft, Governor's office designee
  • Rudy Farber, former member of Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission; Neosho, MO
  • Steve Halter, Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce
  • David Hogan, Hogan Transportation and Logistics, St. Louis
  • Gretchen Ivy, HNTB, Kansas City
  • Nathan McKean, Breckenridge Materials Company, St. Louis
  • Gwen Moore, citizen
  • Craig Porter, Porters Building Centers, Mosby
  • Tom Schneider, mayor, Florissant
  • Dale Williams, Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association, Jefferson City
Presenters at this task force were:
  • Ananth Prasad, HNTB
  • John Sharp, former Rep. & Councilman, also with South Kansas City Alliance
  • Patrick McKenna, Director of MoDot
  • Kevin Pula, NCSL
  • Mayor Sly James, City of KCMO
  • Steve Miller, former Hwy. Commissioner
  • Ron  Achelpohl, Mid-Americal Regional Council
  • Bob Wollenman, St. Joseph citizen & entrepreneur
  • Nan Johnston, Mayor of Parkville
  • Denise Hastey, AGC
  • Jeff Glenn, Mercury Alliance
  • David Slater, Mayor Pleasant Valley
  • Jeff Schwartz, Citizen
In another meeting, the Chamber's Surface Transportation Committee hosted multiple regional transportation experts earlier in the month for presentations and dialogue on state and local needs and funding possibilities. Speakers at the funding meeting included Joel Skelley from Kansas Department of Transportation, Jay Wunderlich from Missouri Department of Transportation, and Missouri House member Kevin Corlew.

Would You Like to Join the Missouri State Affairs Committee or Kansas State Affairs Committee?
Planning is in progress for the 2018 Missouri and Kansas legislative sessions. The Missouri and Kansas State Affairs Committees develop the KC Chamber's annual Missouri and Kansas public policy agendas to recommend to the Board of Directors, assist with Chamber lobbying efforts in Jefferson City and Topeka, and provide members with direct access to Missouri and Kansas elected officials. Next year's meetings will take place January through April with a wrap-up luncheon in May. To begin the process in Missouri, mark your calendars for the Missouri State Affairs 2018 Legislative Agenda Hearing, which is set for Monday, October 2, 2017 in the Chamber Board Room from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Kansas agenda hearing will be October 13, 2017 from 12-1:30 p.m. in the World Trade Center Conference Room. More information is to come. If you are not part of the Missouri State Affairs Committee and would like to participate, please contact Tiffany Friend to join. If you are not part of the Kansas State Affairs Committee and would like to participate, please contact Shavon Brown to join.


LOCAL


Measuring Diversity & Inclusion Success
On July 26 the KC Chamber announced the results of the region's first-ever survey to measure how area businesses are doing in implementing policy and tactics to improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) within their operations. While nearly 57 percent of all businesses responding reported they had a formal D&I policy or mission statement and 76 percent said they implemented D&I principles in workforce recruitment, only 61 percent said they were seeing D&I principles at play in workforce retention efforts. Nearly 40 percent said less than 25 percent of their senior management was made up of culturally diverse team members. The survey breaks out D&I measurements by business size and by profit and non-profit status. A look at the complete survey results may be found using this link.

Earnings Tax Regulations
The new regulations for the earnings tax have been adopted by the City Council. The Chamber was very involved in the process, and the regulations can be found here.