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Advocating for You - August, 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 August.


Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act 
An issue of importance to the Kansas City business community was the passage of the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act (FDARA) by Congress this month. The bipartisan bill, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump, includes provisions that help deliver medicine to patients faster and provides the FDA many of the resources it needs to increase innovation. Some of the FDARA provisions advocated by the KC Chamber are: 
  • Modernization of the clinical trial process
  • Reauthorization of the biosimilar user fee program
  • FDA user fee programs to enable manufacturers to get their breakthrough products to market faster while maintaining high patient safety standards
  • Ensure the FDA continues to have funding necessary to carry out human drug review programs

Green Card Expansion 
The Chamber hosted a roundtable dialogue among many of the region's largest employers, several university officials and Congressman Kevin Yoder (KS-3) August 16 to talk about the need to modernize the nation's visa and Green Card issuance programs. Each employer told of hundreds of employees with H-1B visas awaiting green cards, many of them in the application line for over a decade and some projected to wait another 30-70 years. Congressman Yoder is the lead sponsor of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2015 (HB392), which would lift the per-country cap on annual employment-based Green Card issuance (the Green Card program currently has a per-country cap of 7% annually). Under the 7% cap, large countries like India and China, which account for over 40% of the world's population and an even higher percentage of the highly skilled global workforce, receive the same amount of visas as Greenland, a country that accounts for 0.001% of the world's population. While roundtable participants urged the Congressman and his colleagues to do more to allow high-skilled foreign-born workforce members (particularly those in STEM fields) to come to and remain in the US, the businesses and university representatives indicated they believed HB392 was a good start.

Federal Energy Policy
The Chamber's Energy and Environment Committee at its August 22 meeting heard an update on federal energy policy and many of the recent changes the Trump administration hopes to implement. Presenter Vanessa Dittman of Shook, Hardy, & Bacon described several of the Administration's measures designed to make America "Energy Dominant," including addressing barriers to financing high-efficiency overseas coal plants, increasing exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), expansion of off-shore drilling, approval of a new petroleum pipeline to Mexico, and reviving the nuclear sector. She also shared information examining separate budget measures from the President, US Senate and US House to significantly cut funding for the Department of Energy. View the presentation here >>


FYI - Minimum Living Wage in Missouri 
As with the rest of the State of Missouri, the minimum wage fight has also been ongoing in Kansas City, Missouri. On August 8, voters in Kansas City, Missouri overwhelmingly approved the minimum wage in the city to $10 an hour. This follows the City of St. Louis passing an ordinance in 2015 authorizing an increase in wages to $10 an hour and $11 an hour in 2018. However, the Missouri General Assembly recently passed a bill banning cities from passing local minimum wage ordinances and requires all cities to adhere to the state minimum wage of $7.70 an hour. Despite this, many cities, including Kansas City, Missouri, and businesses, are ignoring this new legislation. On August 17, the City Council of Kansas City passed a resolution which encourages, "Kansas City businesses to voluntarily comply with the minimum living wage adopted by the voters on August 8, 2017; and directing the City Manager to ensure the City complies with the minimum wage adopted by the voters." 

Right to Work to the Ballot in 2018
In addition to the minimum wage discussion within the state, Missouri became the 28th state to become a, "Right to work," state. The Missouri General Assembly passed a bill in February allowing employees in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying unions for the cost of being represented. However, on August 18, unions from across the state submitted 310,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide in 2018. Of the 26 times a referendum has been placed on the ballot, voters have rejected actions by the General Assembly all but twice.


KCMO's 5th District Enjoying Strong Leadership; Revitalizing Community
Kansas City, Missouri's 5th City Council District, encompassing the city's southeast side, is enjoying strong leadership and visioning for a strong community from its city council members Alissia Canady and Lee Barnes Jr. While speaking to various Chamber members in an August meeting concerning development projects underway across the city, Council members Canady and Barnes discussed some of the major developments within their district. This includes the now closed Bannister Federal Complex. Which is undergoing an extensive, multi-year rehabilitation program which includes the construction of a rail line that will not only help with the rehabilitation of the complex, but will also remain for the services of business that will take over the complex. In addition, Council members Canady and Barnes are hoping to gain approval and funding for further infrastructure development in the area. The goal of the Council members and developers is to attract over 1,300 jobs to the area. Deals have already been struck with grocer Hy-Vee for a distribution center at the site and an automobile parts manufacturer that will be announced in the near future. In addition to this project, Canady and Barnes reflected on the success of Cerner's new campus at the old Bannister Mall location. The 10-year plan seeks to bring 16,000 jobs to the area on a 290 acre campus.  

Citizen Satisfaction Survey Results Show Positive Findings, Room for Improvement
Each year the City of Kansas City, Missouri works with the ETC Institute to conduct an objective survey among Kansas City, Missouri residents to assess satisfaction and sentiment among its residents regarding services provided, public image of the city, and areas for improvement for the city. The 2016-2017 survey represents a random sample of 4,399 households in the city taken throughout the year. The survey found that residents are generally satisfied with the major services provided by the city. One significant increase from the 2015-2016 report, the study found, was the overall satisfaction with the quality of public transportation (Up 4.9%). This can be attributed to the addition of the KC Streetcar. However, residents were generally unsatisfied with the quality of maintenance of city roads, sidewalks and infrastructure (25%). In relation to perception of public safety, most residents felt safe in the city. 61% of respondents felt they were safe in their neighborhoods while 67% of respondents had a positive or very positive sentiment about the quality of life in Kansas City. Of note, the study found significant changes from a similar 2005 survey with the overall image of the city up 29%, quality of life up 16.6%, and public safety up 10.9%. In addition, 79% of respondents found Kansas City as a satisfactory place to live while 72% found the city to be a satisfactory place to work, up 10.1% and 8.7%, respectively. In terms of the Kansas City metro area as a whole in comparison to cities of over 250,000 people, the survey found 65% of people satisfied with the city as a place to live compared to 54% of people in other cities. In addition, the survey found 58% of respondents satisfied with the work environment of the area compared to 44% satisfaction among residents of other cities. All of these figures are positive for Kansas City, MO proper, as well as the metropolitan area as a whole. The complete survey is available on the official website of Kansas City, Missouri here.


Chamber, Civic Council and KCADC Host KCI and KC Rising Luncheon with MO & KS Area Delegation 
The Chamber hosted a meeting to provide an update on KCI and KC Rising to the Missouri and Kansas area legislative delegation. Jewel Scott, Executive Director of the Civic Council presented on KC Rising, a sustainable 20-year+ vision to accelerate the Kansas City region's economic growth, and Chamber President & CEO Joe Reardon along with KCADC President & CEO Tim Cowden presented on why we need a new single terminal at KCI. Our elected officials were very engaged, asking many questions, including what it is they can do to help both of these very important initiatives. Attendees of this luncheon were:
  • Missouri Senator Dan Hegeman, R-12
  • Missouri Senator John Rizzo, D-11
  • Missouri Representative T.J. Berry, R-38
  • Missouri Representative Kevin Corlew, R-14
  • Missouri Representative Jeanie Lauer, R-32
  • Missouri Representative Dan Stacy, R-31
  • Missouri Representative Noel Shull, R-16
  • Missouri Representative Rebecca Roeber, R-34
  • Kansas Senator Pat Pettey, D-6
  • Kansas Senator Jon Skubal, R-11
  • Kansas Representative Melissa Rooker, R-25
  • Kansas Representative Stephanie Clayton, R-19
  • Kansas Representative Pam Curtis, D-32
  • Kansas Representative Stan Frownfelter, D-37
  • Kansas Representative Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-36
  • Kansas Representative Jarrod Ousley, D-24
  • Kansas Representative Cindy Holscher, D-16
  • Kansas Representative Jan Kessinger, R-20
  • Kansas Representative Nancy Lusk, D-22
  • Kansas Representative Jerry Stogsdill, D-21
  • Kansas Representative Tom Cox, R-17
  • Kansas Representative Cindy Neighbor, D-18