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Advocating for You - February, 2018








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 February.


FEDERAL


Senator Claire McCaskill
The KC Chamber hosted a teleconference with Senator Claire McCaskill, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and the new Chamber Financial Services Committee on February 6 to discuss financial services policy and Senate Bill 2155, the "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act." SB 2155 would raise the asset threshold at which banks are considered "too big to fail" from $50 billion to $250 billion. The Chamber applauds Senator McCaskill's leadership in efforts to reform various provisions of Dodd-Frank and expand opportunities for most mid-sized regional banks in the KC area. Appreciation was also expressed for the senator's support of the Senior Safe Act which protects senior citizens from financial abuse. Senator McCaskill told the Chamber committee members that she hoped to get a bill to the Senate floor within 60 days. The Chamber believes that sound regulatory policies that recognize the diversity of businesses and responsible reforms for financial service providers in the KC region assures vitality and growth for the Greater KC area.
 
DACA
The Chamber is continuing its partnership with other chambers across the US in advocacy for a legislative solution to allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to remain in the country and in our region contributing to the regional economy. In a time when Kansas and Missouri businesses are facing a climate of full-employment, the Chamber believes these hard-working and indispensable contributors to our labor force are vital to keeping the regional economy moving and meeting regional workforce needs. Data shows that immigrants in both Kansas and Missouri contribute billions of dollars in federal and state taxes and work in a wide array of industries. The KC Chamber signed on to a February 16 letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan calling for a Constitutional and permanent fix to the DACA program. The letter urged leadership to work toward a broader, critical discussion on modernization of the U.S. immigration system as a whole. You may view a copy of the letter here.
 
EPA
KC Chamber staff met with the new Region 7 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Jim Gulliford in February to discuss opportunities for the Chamber and its members to collaborate or provide counsel to the regional office. Mr. Gulliford, in turn, offered to connect the Chamber with staff experts working in the fields of air quality and brownfield remediation to keep members updated on critical local initiatives. The Chamber was pleased to host Doug Watson from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Amy Algoe-Eakin from EPA Region 7 at its February Energy and Environment Committee meeting for a presentation on air quality concerns heading into the 2018 key "ozone months."


MISSOURI


On February 9 the KC Chamber held its second Missouri State Affairs meeting of the year, chaired by Erik Bergrud of Park University. Missouri state representatives in attendance included Representatives Noel Shull (R-District 16), Greg Razer (D-District 25), and Gail McCann Beatty (D-District 26). Subjects discussed included funding opportunities for state infrastructure and higher education funding, tax policy, and upcoming issues on the ballot. There is concern about how funding will be achieved for both local and state-wide infrastructure projects. Governor Greitens is advocating for tax and budget cuts that are currently under review by the state legislature. Proposals floated around for funding infrastructure included imposing a 10-cent gas and diesel tax, delegating the duty to maintain roads to counties, and/or seeking out federal funding. Proposed cuts to higher education funding were rejected by both chambers of the legislature. It was noted that funding should be maintained for higher education for workforce development purposes.

Support for Jefferson City Issues Included:

Emergency Communications
The House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee convened recently to consider passage of HB 1456, sponsored by Representative Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs). Currently, landline fees fund 911 services. The bill changes laws regarding funding by authorizing counties to impose a monthly surcharge on cellular subscribers solely for funding 911 services. The Chamber is helping to move the issue along and commends Rep. Lauer for her determination to gain passage for this bill so important to public safety of all Missourians.

Arbitration
The House Legislative Oversight Committee met in executive session Monday afternoon to consider passage of HB 1512, sponsored by Representative Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City). The bill modifies law regarding arbitration agreements between employers and at-will employees. The sponsor's goal with the language is to ease the current burden on Missouri's court system, protect confidentiality for plaintiffs and defendants, and provide a more efficient resolution to employment disputes that arise. It is an important bill to many KC companies. After brief discussion, the committee passed the legislation by a 10-3 vote.

Historic Preservation Tax Credits
The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee convened Tuesday morning to consider passage of SB 590, sponsored by Senator Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby). The bill modifies the Historic Preservation Tax Credit and creates Capitol Complex and Public Building preservation tax credits. Like last week, the sponsor indicated support for the program but questioned the appropriate investment amount for historic properties compared to other state programs. Accordingly, his originally filed legislation capped the historic preservation tax credit program at $50 million, eliminated credits for residential properties, and introduced competitive requirements into the program. During committee discussion, the sponsor offered substitute language that raised the cap to $70 million and clarified the residential property language. After modifications, the committee passed the bill by a 5-2 vote.

Low Income Housing Tax Credits
The committee then turned its attention toward SB 591, also sponsored by Senator Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby). The legislation, as originally filed implemented a $50 million cap on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. During committee discussion, the sponsor again indicated support for the program and suggested his bill is a starting point for discussion and negotiation, which in his opinion, is necessary for program revitalization. He proposed substitute language that raised the proposed $50 million cap to $100 million. Once changes were adopted, the committee passed the bill by a 5-2 vote.

MO Works Training Program
The Senate Economic Development Committee met Tuesday afternoon to consider passage of SB 549 and SB 550, sponsored by Senator Jay Wasson (R-Nixa). The bills reauthorizes the Missouri Works Training Program and MO Business Development Program and extend the current 2019 sunsets to 2030. Reemphasizing job growth and economic development impacts, the sponsor combined the bills into one piece of legislation. Once combined, the committee passed the proposals by a 7-0 vote.

STEM
The House Workforce Development Committee held an executive session Wednesday morning to consider passage of HB 1623, sponsored by Representative Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit). The bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a high school graduation policy that allows a student to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved computer science course for any math, science, or practical arts unit required for high school graduation. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted clarifying the computer science course is not mandatory and outlines teacher qualifications for course education. The committee then passed the bill by a 9-1 vote.

Non-Compete
The KC Chamber actively opposed HB 2088, at a committee hearing. 2088 is sponsored by Representative Keith Frederick (R-Rolla). The bill prohibits covenants not to compete clauses in employment contracts. During bill presentation, the sponsor stated his belief that these covenants stop economic growth and stifle entrepreneurship. No supporting testimony was presented.


KANSAS


KanCare Expansion Testimony
The KC Chamber provided testimony to the Kansas Senate Health and Public Welfare Committee in support of SB 38, which would expand KanCare, the state's Medicaid program, to over 20,000 Kansans in the KC metro area. Data shows expansion would spur the creation of nearly 4,000 jobs and $2 billion in business activity state-wide by 2020. The Chamber testimony advocated for a responsibly-funded Medicaid program that uses dollars that are rightfully Kansas's and will provide much-needed health care services for thousands of Kansans. While SB 38 was passed out of committee as amended February 19, it will not be scheduled for a floor vote.
 
School Finance Report
The KC Chamber sat in on a hearing to a joint session of the Kansas House and Senate Education Committees presented by Texas A&M researchers to provide their preliminary findings on what adequate spending for Kansas students should look like. Texas A&M consultants reported their methodology, data and analysis plan as to how the results have been found. The researchers emphasized their report will be based largely on accounting for the Rose Standards, the seven educational standards accepted by the state as to compose a minimum quality of education, to come up with their results. Final results of the study will be released March 15 and are expected to be the basis for the legislature's plan to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court's mandate for increased investment in K-12 education. The KC Chamber has long advocated for a school finance formula that supports exemplary educational standards, local control and attention to the needs of a 21st-centruy workforce.
 
Immigration and In-State Tuition
Immigration and In-State Tuition: In February, the Chamber was a cosigner on testimony to the Kansas House Higher Education Budget Committee opposing HB 2643 which would prohibit Kansas undocumented immigrants from paying in-state tuition at Kansas higher education institutions. The testimony, put forth by the Kansas Business Coalition for Immigration Reform, urged committee members to avoid taking harmful action against students who were brought to the states by their parents and have experienced growing up in America and keep immigration reform efforts at the federal level. Kansas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and hard-working educated adults are critical to the state's businesses. Recent Kansas unemployment data reflects that 63 of the 105 Kansas counties had unemployment rates below 4%, with five counties that have zero residents receiving unemployment insurance benefits. The bill had limited support and died in committee. A copy of the joint testimony may be accessed here.


LOCAL


February's Kansas City, Missouri Committee meeting, chaired by Cindy Circo of Kansas City Power & Light, kicked off with Mike Burke of Michael Burke, LLC updating the KC Chamber on the progress of the downtown convention hotel; Randy Landes, Finance Director for the City of Kansas City MO, provided a rundown of the one-cent sales tax for capital improvements that is up for renewal in April; and Joni Wickham (Chief of Staff for Mayor James) with Mark Nevins (Partner with Dover Strategy Group) giving a rundown of the campaign for the one-cent sales tax as well as a national political overview led by Mark.
The Loews Convention Center Hotel is underway, as ground was broken last month. The hotel will have 800 guest rooms, approximately 84,100 square feet of meeting space, approximately 20,300 square feet of retail, restaurant, bar and lounge areas, and a 469-space parking structure. Loews Hotels & Co. is a top-tiered hotel. The hotel is set to be completed in 2020.
 
Randy Landes stated that the KCMO one-cent sales tax sunsets on December 31, 2018 and is to be renewed January 1, 2019. The annual gross collections of this tax equals $83 million a year, totaling $1.6 billion for 20 years. These funds go towards administration, bridges, buildings, curbs and sidewalks, debt service, development, environmental, and flood control. The proposed uses of the tax break it down as 35% for neighborhood conservation, not less than 25% for street resurfacing, repair and construction of complete street facilities; and the remainder will go towards capital improvements and maintenance, including the city's portion (up to $60 million) of funding for the Buck O'Neil Bridge.
 
Joni and Mark discussed the environment surrounding the one-cent sales tax campaign, pointing out that overall 62% of citizens feel Kansas City is moving in the right direction. Also, the overall support for the renewal of the sales tax is at 76%.


OTHER


Superintendent's Forum
The Greater Kansas City Chamber Superintendent's Forum, chaired by Dr. Gayden Carruth of Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City, met this month to discuss several topics, such as new and innovative ways to provide after school services and transportation to youth; and an in-depth discussion with Clyde McQueen of the Full Employment Council regarding meeting workforce needs in Kansas City.