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Advocating for You - September, 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 September.


Immigration Reform
The KC Chamber reached out to its congressional delegation last month to remind them of the Chamber's support for immigration reform policy that serves the region's workforce and economic needs and to express the Chamber's disappointment in the Administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In Kansas as many as 9,084 people are DACA-eligible and pay an estimated $9.5 million in state and local taxes each year. Meanwhile, Missouri's estimated 6,439 DACA eligible individuals pay an estimated $5.5 million in annual state and local taxes. The Chamber called on our delegation to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution before the DACA program expires and to allow this young population to remain in the U.S. and continue to contribute to our economy as workforce members or business startups that will create jobs in Kansas and Missouri.

The Chamber is working collaboratively with the Kansas Immigration Coalition and other business groups to track immigration policy measures contained in several pieces of legislation including the DREAM Act, the RAISE Act, the State-Sponsored Visa Pilot Act, a proposed Agriculture Guest Worker Bill, and the High-Skilled Immigrants Act to lift the per-country cap on employment-based Green Cards.

Startup Act
U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) along with Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), in September reintroduced the Startup Act, a bipartisan jobs bill to encourage creation and growth of new business and accelerate the commercialization of university research.

The KC Chamber has long been an advocate of the Startup Act (S. 1877), which would improve the regulatory processes at the federal, state and local levels, and modernize a critical Economic Development Administration (EDA) program to promote innovation and spur economic growth. Also of keen interest to the Chamber is the bill's provisions to create both Entrepreneur and STEM Visas for highly-educated foreign-born individuals so they can remain in the United States legally to launch new businesses, help fuel innovation, and create well-paying American jobs.

Both Moran and Blunt have acknowledged that new business formation and the rate of entrepreneurship have reached historic lows. The Chamber believes the Startup Act would reduce barriers to growth, encourage investment in new businesses, and improve the regulatory process in Kansas and Missouri.

Missouri Transportation Grant
The KC Chamber applauds Missouri Congressman Sam Graves for his leadership to help Missouri secure a $2,772,500 grant to study alternative funding mechanisms to maintain the long-term solvency of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund. The FAST Act established the Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives Program to provide grants to states or groups of states to demonstrate user-based alternative revenue mechanisms that to help maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. Graves was critical in the drafting of the 2015 infrastructure bill from which the grant emanates. "This grant will help put Missouri at the forefront of studying ways to improve our transportation funding and ensure we have the resources needed to make these much-needed repairs in the future," said Graves, a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.


Missouri Public Policy Agenda Hearing
The Missouri State Affairs Committee along with KC Chamber members in the business community met to hear suggestions for the 2018 Missouri Public Policy agenda. Erik Bergrud with Park University and Chair of the Missouri State Affairs Committee led the meeting. We heard business issues such as:
  • Historic tax credits
  • Arbitration
  • Oppose legislation to weaken non-compete laws to restrict reasonable & necessary protections for MO businesses
  • Increasing funding for the highway & transportation system
  • Maintain & advance access to Medicaid for uninsured residents
  • Ensure adequate reimbursement for school-based health services
  • Kansas City Public Schools 2018 legislative priorities
  • Legislation to allow pharmacy drug take-back programs to accept controlled substances
  • Authorizing a fee on cell phones to support 911 service
  • Prescription drug monitoring
  • Legislative priorities for many of our member organizations
The next step in the process is to put the draft 2018 agenda together to present to the Missouri State Affairs Committee and KC Chamber members. Any KC Chamber member is welcome to attend.


Kansas Education Policy
Chamber staff met with several school superintendents from Johnson and Wyandotte County September 19 to improve understanding of education issues schools are likely to face when the Kansas Legislature convenes in 2018. The group of K-12 leaders shared concerns about the bonding cap added during the 2017 session which will artificially limit the local bonding capacity and authority of local school districts. As the KC Chamber and its Kansas State Affairs Committee begin crafting a recommended 2018 state public policy agenda, the superintendents urged the Chamber to continue support for the measures and outcomes of the state's Kansan's Can program which is being piloted in seven schools (including one Olathe school) this year. The program is aimed at implementing real world achievement measures and an accountability model that better-aligns with post-secondary and workforce needs.


Kansas City Missouri Business Leadership Council
The KC Chamber's KCMOBLC convened on Sept. 27 to discuss a variety of important city issues. Councilmen Scott Taylor and Kevin McManus briefed the group on critical issues in south Kansas City including the new Cerner developments; further expansion of the Ward Parkway Shopping Center that will include three new restaurants and a coffee shop. The Councilmen also discussed plans for the new single terminal facility that will go to the voters for approval on November 7. The Council also discussed the Chamber's involvement with a broad group of partners on a plan to replace the deteriorating Buck O'Neil Bridge with a new structure. Mike Burke with Michael Burke, LLC also briefed the committee on the plans for the new, downtown hotel that will be operated by Loew's. Groundbreaking is expected later this fall.

Building a Coalition 
The KC Chamber is once again working with other partners to develop a common, consensus agenda for the upcoming Missouri legislative session. The Chamber helped develop the coalition 9 years ago and it includes partners such as Kansas City Economic Development Corporation, City of Kansas City, Missouri, Platte County Economic Development Corporation, Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Downtown KC, Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and others. Issues for consideration include a focus on retaining and increasing jobs and businesses in Missouri, advancing the cause for an increase in transportation funding in Missouri, and maintaining economic incentives that help grow Missouri's economy and other issues.


State Policy & the Leadership Exchange
Over 125 Kansas City regional leaders took part in the KC Chamber's Leadership Exchange to Boston in September, where they had a cursory look at how the state was investing in startups and the state's innovation ecosystem and in early childhood learning and K-12 education. 
State Investment
Following the economic crash of 2008, when many large employers were cutting workforce, the state of Massachusetts invested $100,000 in a new no-equity accelerator, MassChallenge, to help displaced workers and entrepreneurs launch new businesses, many of which could grow to become future significant employers for the state. Following the state investment, MassChallenge attracted capital from the Kauffman Foundation, Microsoft, Blackstone and others to host its first cadre of startups with the promise of $1 million in grant funding for the top startups. Nine years later MassChallenge has accelerated over 1,211 startups which have raised over $1.8 billion in funding, generated over $900 million in revenue, and created over 65,000 direct and indirect jobs across the world.

Education Reform Legislation
The delegation of KC area leaders also heard about Boston's focus on improving the quality of early childhood and K-12 education. Leaders from the education community and the Mayor's office said landmark state legislation in 2010 had been instrumental in allowing the state and qualified nonprofits to intervene in the state's most chronically low-performing schools. The Massachusetts Achievement Gap Act of 2010 created different vehicles for non-profit organizations to restart low-performing schools as autonomous district schools.


Missouri and Kansas Public Policy 2018 Agendas
The KC Chamber is hosting its annual Missouri and Kansas hearings to draft the 2018 Public Policy Agendas. The Missouri hearing was on Monday, October 2 and the Kansas hearing is on Friday, October 13 at 11:30 a.m. in the World Trade Center Conference Room. The Missouri and Kansas State Affairs Committees will then review the proposed agendas alongside Committee Chairmen Erik Bergrud with Park University (Missouri) and Scott Jones with KCP&L (Kansas) at the final meetings on Tuesday, October 17 at 11:30 a.m. (Missouri) and Tuesday, October 31 at 11:30 a.m. (Kansas). The KC Chamber Board of Directors will then review the suggested 2018 Public Policy Agendas for both Kansas and Missouri at its November Board meeting. For more information regarding these meetings, please contact Tiffany Friend for Missouri State Affairs and Shavon Brown for Kansas State Affairs.