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Advocating for You - April, 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 April.


Federal Research Funding
The KC Chamber has been an active member of the Business for Federal Research Funding (BFRF) coalition and joined the agency in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the US Senate and House Appropriations Committees thanking them for including critical funding increases for research agencies in the FY18 Omnibus. The research increases include boosts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), all of great importance to research being conducted in the Kansas City region. BFRF, a broad-based organization of more than 75 chambers of commerce from across the country, was formed to support federal research funding and bring a heightened focus to the critical impact that federal research has on our nation's competitiveness. The Administration's budget request for FY18 and FY19 would not have served to enhance innovation or the US economy. However, Congress has proven through the last two omnibus spending bills that research and innovation are priorities for our country. The coalition of chambers told Appropriations leaders in a letter, "While funding for research accounts increased in the past few fiscal years, we still need to make up for years of cuts and underinvestment. In order to prevent further stagnation of U.S. innovation, it is crucial that appropriators continue to ensure reliable annual research appropriations at a steady rate above inflation." You may see a copy of the letter that the coalition sent to Appropriations leaders here.

Immigrants and the Workforce
April 12 the KC Chamber joined over 50 chambers of commerce from 23 states to sign an open letter to Congressional leadership calling for bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers and allow them to continue to play a vital role in keeping our workforce competitive, contributing to the tax base, and creating jobs for all Americans. The over 15,000 Dreamers in Kansas and Missouri are major contributors to the heartland's economic growth. The letter told leadership, "Dreamers shouldn't have to pay the price for the gridlock in Washington. It's time for Congress to do what makes business sense, end the legal limbo, and ensure Dreamers can pursue their careers right here in America."


April's Missouri State Affairs Committee meeting featured Senators Jason Holsman (D-7) and Kiki Curls (D-9), as well as Representatives Mark Ellebracht (D-17), Ingrid Burnett (D-19), Brandon Ellington (D-22) and Jack Bondon (R-56). The meeting focused around what each person is hoping to accomplish by the end of the session, such as changes in term limits (Holsman), a bill to share information between counties and jurisdictions regarding child abuse and neglect (Curls), regulatory reform bills to help streamline hospitals (Bondon), reworking the child sex offender registry to be more in line with federal guidelines (Ellebracht), the certification and bonding of inmates (Ellington) and an increase in funding for the public defender's office (Burnett).

Don't forget to join us Friday, May 25 at 11:30 a.m. at the American Restaurant in Crown Center for our annual Missouri Wrap-Up Luncheon. Lt. Governor Mike Parson will join. Register here >>

Motor fuel tax
Transportation funding has long been a key issue of support for the KC Chamber. Apparently, there is still the possibility for an increase this year. The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee agreed on SB 734, sponsored by Senator Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan). The bill increases the motor fuel tax from $0.17 per gallon to $0.27 per gallon. Another bill also received approval - SJR 36, sponsored by Senator Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan). Currently, a portion of the motor fuel tax supports the MO State Highway Patrol. Upon voter approval, this resolution authorizes an additional 4/10 of one-cent state sales tax on tangible personal property to be deposited into a newly created Missouri Law Enforcement Fund, which would fund highway patrol activities directly rather than diverting fuel tax dollars. During discussion, the committee amended the resolution clarifying the patrol's authority will not be expanded and moved the effective date from January 2019 to January 2020. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 4-2 vote.
Opioids- The Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee convened Wednesday morning to discuss HB 2105, sponsored by Representative Keith Frederick (R-Rolla). The bill modifies provisions relating to opioids. The bill also includes provisions of HB 2209, sponsored by Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), which establishes a prescription abuse registry. Consumer Healthcare Providers, Missouri State Medical Association, Missouri Nurse's Association, Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Health Organizations, Missouri Hospice Care, BJC, Cox Health, and Pfizer provided supporting testimony. Washington University and Missouri Association of Physician Assistants presented opposing testimony.

Distribution of prescriptions- The House Professional Registration and Licensing Committee convened Wednesday afternoon to discuss HB 2670, sponsored by Representative Lynn Morris (R-Nixa). Currently, it is unlawful for a pharmacy to receive prescription drugs from anyone other than a drug distributor, drug outsourcer, third-party logistics provider, or licensed pharmacy. The bill adds drug outsourcers and third-party logistics providers to statutes regarding wholesale drug distributors. The sponsor's intent is to update state statutes to reflect changes in federal law to allow MO warehouses to ship pharmaceuticals throughout the country. The KC Chamber along with other groups provided supporting testimony. No opposing testimony was recorded.

Drug take back- The House dedicated floor time Wednesday afternoon to consider passage of SB 826, sponsored by Senator David Sater (R-Cassville). The goal of the legislation is to update Missouri law to allow consumers to easily and safely dispose of controlled substances and instructs the Department of Health and Senior Services to provide online public education regarding the program. The proposal specifies that initial prescriptions of opioid controlled substances are limited to no more than a seven day supply for the treatment of acute pain. Prior to prescribing the opioid, a practitioner shall consult with the patient regarding the quantity of the opioid and the patient's option to fill the prescription in a lesser quantity and inform the patient of the risks associated with the prescribed opioid. During floor debate, multiple amendments were adopted to include language from several bills, creating an omnibus prescription drug bill.

Historic tax credits
The House Economic Development Committee convened Tuesday morning to consider potential modifications to Missouri's historic tax credit program via HCB 18, sponsored by Representative Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston). During committee discussion, the committee reviewed the most recent language that creates a $100 million programmatic cap and removes sunset, subject to appropriations, and subject to financing provisions. Surprising many, the bill was defeated soundly by a 4-9 vote.

The House dedicated floor time Monday afternoon to revisit HB 2255, sponsored by Representative Bart Korman (R-High Hill). The legislation allows a business owner who hires a STEM student attending a Missouri college, to designate $10,000 of state tax liability to the Missouri Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fund to be used by students demonstrating financial need. Additionally, the bill was amended to include HB 1623, sponsored by Representative Travis Fitzwater (R-Fulton), which 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. After brief discussion, the House passed the bill by a 139-8 vote. The bill now will be sent to the Senate for further debate.


Higher Education Funding
The KC Chamber contacted Johnson and Wyandotte County legislators in April to advocate for the restoration of $24 million for the Kansas Board of Regents' schools which was reduced under the FY 2017 budget allotments. The Chamber told legislators that Kansas public universities - specifically KU and KSU - are economic engines for the state and are major suppliers of the region's workforce who help Kansas and Kansas City remain competitive in the global market.The Chamber message touted the impact KU and K State have had in bringing millions of federal research dollars to the region and in growing startups and small businesses that are a key source of jobs for the metropolitan area. Restoration of the $24 million in higher education funding cut in the 2017 budget allotments was the policy request for the Kansas Board of Regents in 2018. A t this writing, the Senate had proposed restoring $16 million and the House restoring $12 million, giving the appearance that higher education would get some of the 2017 cuts restored.

Transportation Task Force and Education Funding
State Senator John Skubal and Representatives Stan Frownfelter and Tom Cox told the Kansas State Affairs (KSA) Committee April 20 that transportation planning and investment was critical for the state and legislation creating a transportation task force was necessary to move planning forward. Senator Pat Pettey, at the same meeting, talked about concerns regarding the public education funding bill, House Substitute for SB423, that would bring an estimated $534 million in new funds to education over the next 5 years. Pettey said she was disappointed that the bill did not include investment for Parents As Teachers. She took several questions about how the legislature might improve accountability measures related to public education funding.

School Funding "Fix"
The KC Chamber joined seven Johnson County chambers of commerce in a communication to Johnson County legislators calling for a "fix" that would repeal the changes to the Local Option Budget (LOB) measures in the education funding bill (House Sub for SB423) and restore the law regarding the LOB to what existed prior to passage of H Sub/SB423 (the version that the Court most recently reviewed and did not find constitutionally deficient). The bill, now law, contained text regarding the LOB that resulted in the unintended consequence of a reduction of about $80 million in the overall amount of state funding for schools. Our message was that it was critical to "fix" the new law to make sure that this $80 million is part of the legislature's funding plan for K-12 schools. Without that material portion of the funding, it becomes much more difficult, if not practically impossible, to expect the Court to accept the new funding plan as constitutionally adequate.

Don't forget to join us Wednesday, June 13 at 11:30 a.m. at the Leawood Hereford House for our 2018 Kansas Wrap-Up Luncheon. House Speaker Ron Ryckman, and other state leadership, will debrief attendees on the 2018 Kansas legislative session. Find more information and how to register here >>


Kansas City, Missouri
At the April Kansas City, Missouri Committee meeting Kerrie Tyndall, Director of Economic Development for the City of KCMO, presented the results for the city’s 7th annual business survey. See the survey results here >>

50% of the business surveyed indicated that KC KC is a good place to have a business; 19 percent say it is an excellent place to have a business. The overall satisfaction with services has remained consistent, with similar results to last year’s survey.
The results of this survey concluded that the most important factors to businesses for staying in Kansas City are:
  1. The availability of utilities and infrastructure
  2. The attitude of local government toward businesses
  3. Low crime rate
  4. The level of taxation
  5. The image of the city
Capital Improvements Sales Tax
On Tuesday, April 3 Kansas City, MO voters approved the extension of the 1-cent sales tax for capital improvements for 20 more years. Supported by the Chamber and most other business groups in Kansas City, this issue received overwhelming support from the citizens of Kansas City, Missouri.