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Advocating for You - January, 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 January.


Federal Tax Reform
While the KC Chamber and businesses across the region are still getting a firmer grasp on the contents of the new federal tax law, the Chamber is pleased to see Congressman Sam Graves's efforts to preserve the  tax exemption for private activity bonds (PABs). PABs are important financing tools in a wide range of projects from hospitals to airports, schools, and local water infrastructure and the Chamber has called on our local delegation to preserve the tax exemption for municipal bonds. Graves, Chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, authored a letter signed by 38 Republican House lawmakers to House and Senate leadership emphasizing the value of PABs and requesting they be included in the final tax reform package.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
The KC Chamber played host to nearly 100 area business leaders December 6 for a forum on the local economic impact of DACA recipients and the foreign-born workforce at large. The forum featured a presentation from the New American Economy showcasing new data on how immigrants are net positive contributors to our local and national economies:
  • In 2017 6,439 Missourians and 9084 Kansans were eligible for DACA earning a total annual income of nearly $187 million and $138.4 million in spending power.
  • In 2015 immigrants in Missouri and Kansas earned $3.7 billion and paid $309.3 million in state and local taxes, and $630 million in federal taxes.
For a look at the full economic impact report use this link.

On the eve of the 6th round of negotiations for the renewal of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the KC Chamber joined 24 other metro area chambers from the US, Canada and Mexico in signing a declaration urging the respective governments to come to an agreement to renew NAFTA, and to maintain it for the future economic success of all three nations. The KC Chamber participated in a full day advocacy meeting with the other chambers exploring the broader impact of NAFTA in all three member countries. Mexico is currently Kansas' No. 1 export market bringing the state $1.8 billion in 2016, followed by Canada at $1.7 billion, according to the International Trade Administration. In Missouri, Canada is the top export market at $5.2 billion in 2016, followed by Mexico at $2.5 billion. Under NAFTA Canadian foreign direct investments in the US have risen from less than $40 billion to nearly $400 billion and Mexican Foreign direct investment holdings in the US have increased by a factor of ten.


Missouri State Affairs Committee
Representatives DaRon McGee (District 36) and Lauren Arthur (District 18) joined the KC Chamber's Missouri State Affairs Committee, chaired by Erik Bergrud of Park University, on Friday, January 12. Representative McGee discussed the Buck O'Neil Bridge, stating that the Kansas City Democratic Caucus has been doing their best to help with financing a new bridge. He also expressed concerns about workforce shortages and cutbacks to higher education. Representative Arthur updated the first two weeks of the session and, specifically, the importance of reform to landlord tenant laws - the ability to break leases due to hostile and/or abusive situations. The next Missouri State Affairs Committee meeting is Friday, February 9 at 12:00 p.m. in the KC Chamber Boardroom. Please contact Tiffany Friend for more information.

KC Chamber Issues in Jefferson City
MO Works Training Program
The KC Chamber testified in support of two important job training bills in Jefferson City recently. SB 549 and SB 550, sponsored by Senator Jay Wasson (R-Nixa), would reauthorize the MO Works Training Program and MO Business Development Program and extend the current 2019 sunsets. Touting job growth and economic development, the sponsor shared the importance of these programs and the return on investment realized by the state. The issue was passed out of committee and now goes to the Senate floor calendar.

911 Emergency Communications
Representative Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs) has worked diligently for years to expanded funding for 911 emergency services. This month, she presented her bill HB 1456 to the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. Currently, landline fees only fund 911 services and this bill would change the law by authorizing counties to impose a monthly surcharge on cellular subscribers solely for the purpose of funding 911 services. The KC Chamber weighed in and is helping Rep. Lauer advance this bill.

KC Chamber lobbyists testified in favor of a bill important to many Kansas City businesses. HB 1512 had a hearing in The House Litigation Reform Committee, 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 situations that arise. Supporting testimony encouraged committee members to reestablish the enforceability of arbitration contracts.

Transportation Development Districts
The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee met several weeks ago to consider HB 1234, sponsored by Representative Dan Stacy (R-Blue Springs). The bill modifies the procedures for elections of transportation development districts. Three Kansas City citizens appeared before the committee to support the legislation, as they believe current voting processes are prohibitive of citizen involvement and enhance voter disenfranchisement. Kansas City interests were well represented in opposition. The MO Economic Development Financing Association's and KC streetcar attorney Doug Stone detailed the TDD development process and the current checks and balances currently in place. The City of Kansas City's Bill Gamble shared the economic development and tourism impact of the streetcar TDD that includes increased retail and residential generation for the area. The KC Chamber, Executive Director of the Streetcar Authority, KC Area Transportation Authority, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, and the KC Port Authority also shared opposing testimony.


New Transportation Plan for Kansas
The KC Chamber testified January 24 in the Senate Ways and Means Committee supporting Senate Bill 285 to establish a task force to evaluate the Kansas transportation system, review funding needs and opportunities, and make recommendations to serve the state transportation system in the next 10 years. The Chamber called for a comprehensive study of the conditions, needs and opportunities that should shape Kansas's transportation future and encouraged the State to look not only at current transportation needs, but to examine the future of mobility in Kansas including the opportunities created by emerging innovative technologies and smart infrastructure to improve transportation safety, speed and comfort and the economic vibrancy of the state. The Bill is awaiting committee action in February.

Tobacco 21-KC
The list of regional communities passing Tobacco 21 ordinances grew in the final weeks of 2017 as Topeka, Kansas became the 26th local government in the state to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. The KC Chamber's Healthy KC initiative has championed the T21 movement across the region as a health initiative to improve workforce wellness and reduce business costs. The Chamber is pleased to report that in the KC metro area over two-thirds of the population now lives in a T21 community. The KC Chamber is also encouraged by the recent opinion issued by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt validating the right for local cities and governments to raise the minimum age of tobacco purchases to 21. The KC Chamber looks forward to advocating for improved workplace wellness and a better business environment for the KC area.

Small Business Support
The KC Chamber provided testimony to the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee in January supporting Senate Bill 199 which will help protect small businesses by placing caps on appeal bonds. SB199 proposes a cap on appeals bonds of $25 million for most businesses and $1 million for small businesses which are defined as not more than 50 full-time employees and less than $50 million in annual revenue. The Chamber believes under current law, the lack of a cap for appeals bonds can make the appeals process financially prohibitive for many businesses. The cap proposed in Senate Bill 199 would ensure the right and ability to appeal is protected for all businesses.


December's Kansas City, MO Committee
At the KC Chamber's December Kansas City, Missouri Committee meeting Mayor Sly James presented on the city's accomplishments to date and what lies ahead for the year and a half of his term. Mayor James addressed important city accomplishments, including the overwhelming public vote for a new single terminal at KCI (which passed with a 76 percent approval), the streetcar - which has had over 4 million riders so far, the comprehensive 800-million-dollar bond package passed by the voters this past April, and other important issues throughout the year. Looking ahead, the council still needs to finish the work on the airport and manage the expansion of the streetcar, and hopefully gain a public approval for the renewal of the 1-cent sales tax for capital improvements scheduled for the April 2018 ballot. The KC Chamber has been a partner in these issues since the beginning. The next Kansas City, Missouri Committee meeting is Tuesday, February 27 at 12:00 p.m. in the KC Chamber Boardroom. For more information, please contact Tiffany Friend.

KCI Design Workshop
The KC Chamber hosted a Community Design Workshop regarding the new terminal at KCI. Workshop participants were given an update on the project by Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, and an overview of benefits that will come to the Kansas City community. Over 100 Chamber members participated in interactive group and round table discussions concerning current issues with KCI that could potentially be remedied with the new terminal. Members were given the opportunity to provide their input to Edgemoor representatives on amenities and services that should be provided to make a pleasant flight experience and positively contribute to KC's image. This was one of many workshops throughout the metro area during the past several months to get input from Kansas Citians about the design of the terminal.

New Big 5: Transportation
The KC Chamber kicked off its new Big 5 Initiative, Building KC's Innovative Regional Transportation Solutions, January 17 at a forum featuring several transportation leaders exploring opportunities to improve transportation infrastructure, innovation and funding. The new Big 5 will focus on preparing the region for the future of mobility and improving the movement of people to jobs. Currently less than 10 percent of the region's jobs are accessible by transit. The program included Chamber colleague Justin Groenert from the Southwest Indiana Chamber. Justin shared stories of Indiana's 2017 advocacy program and success in passing a comprehensive transportation funding bill that included a responsible annually indexed increase in the state gas and diesel taxes, limited tolling, an electric/hybrid vehicle allowance and other measures that will dramatically improve state investment in transportation infrastructure. The package Justin described will allow Indiana to move from $617 million in dedicated transportation funding in 2018 to $1.209 billion in 2024.

Aviation Committee Meeting
The KC Chamber recently held its first Aviation Committee meeting. Representatives from Edgemoor, KC's City Council, local and national businesses, agencies, and the Chamber discussed progress in the negotiation proceedings between the city and Edgemoor. The mission of the Aviation Committee is to ensure the continued and future growth of our region by creating an aviation experience that showcases Kansas City as a business-minded hub known for innovation and creativity. The committee is chaired by Zane Burke of Cerner. Key dates regarding moving forward with the project were given by Councilwoman and Airport Committee Chair Jolie Justus regarding the city council process and Edgemoor representative Geoff Stricker regarding the status of the design and the citizen outreach. Updates also included sharing findings from the panel discussion at the Design Workshop. Stricker also reported on the findings, where the following priorities were established:
  1. incorporating the Kansas City identity into the airport design to provide a wow factor.
  2. fixing existing issues at the airport.
  3. ensuring that flight convenience is maintained for years to come.