Government Relations Update 1/06/10

by

Kristi Smith Wyatt, Chamber Interim President and Senior Vice President, Government Relations & Policy Development

In the spirit of my adventure this afternoon through a winter storm warning to Kansas City from Jefferson City, I though I might give you the latest news from the Capitol. 

The 2010 Missouri legislative session began at noon today Wednesday, January 6. The first couple weeks of the session is filled with social events and legislators stating their own priorities.  Not much floor action is seen in these early days, however it is important for those involved to show their faces and start talking about legislative priorities.  This year Republicans are enjoying a solid majority in both chambers: 87-72 in the House and 23-11 in the Senate. 

One thing I and my colleagues who follow the legislature can say with any amount of certainty is that in this session many decisions will be based on the budget.  A recent St. Louis Post Dispatch article (http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/missouristatenews/story/9094CA2E8911BA5C8625769E0003F7CF?OpenDocument) quoted Senate Majority leader Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) that building next year’s budget will be difficult and that it is “going to be 90 percent of the session.”

And today, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields and House Speaker Ron Richard both acknowledged the difficult budget process and went as far as to say that no new taxes would be passed.

The state’s declining tax revenues are prompting talk in Jeff City that Governor Jay Nixon will soon be cutting close to $200 million from the budget that legislators passed last spring. 

Below are major Chamber issues for this session:   

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
With an unemployment rate of nearly 9.5 percent, one of the main agenda items for The Chamber and the legislature will be economic development.  A deep focus will be placed on MOSIRA (Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act).  MOSIRA’s purpose is to foster economic growth and is focused on high-growth industries of the 21st Century and the creation, attraction, and retention of quality jobs.  It is important to note that this legislation would not be funded with existing general revenue funds.  MOSIRA enjoys support from a growing state-wide coalition of business groups and pro-economic development entities.  Governor Nixon announced his support late last year and MOSIRA is part of his 2010 comprehensive jobs package .   

Another issue getting attention lately is the effort to repeal the earnings tax in Kansas City and St. Louis.  The City of Kansas City Missouri collects approximately $200 million dollars in earnings tax revenues.  A total of 5 separate initiative petitions have been certified by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office that either eliminate or highly restrict municipalities’ ability to implement an earnings tax.  The petitioners would need to gather approximately 95,000 signatures. 

For more information check out these links:

Statewide petition seek signatures for vote on KC Earnings Tax             http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics/story/1654161.html

Funkhouser wants to look at repealing KC Earnings Tax                       http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics/story/1662535.html


SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH
Keeping in mind the budget dilemma, it is very unlikely that any small business initiatives will be increased or created unless they are revenue neutral. 


HEALTHCARE & EDUCATION/WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
With revenues as tight as they are, both sectors will be watching closely to at least maintain funding. 


ETHICS REFORM
Chamber leaders are highly supportive of select ethics reform measures, particularly a prohibition of fundraising during session. 

Check out these articles about the 2010 Missouri session:

Governor Nixon says he has good relationship with legislature
http://www.missourinet.com/2010/01/06/gov-nixon-says-he-has-good-relationship-with-legislature/

Missouri plans for another budget battle
http://www.kansascity.com/115/story/1664164.html

What’s in store for education funding in Missouri and Kansas?
http://www.kansascity.com/105/story/1661219.html

People and issues to watch this session
http://www.kansascity.com/105/story/1661227.html

Finally, I must mention the two people who are down in Jeff City walking those wonderful halls. 

Nancy Giddens has served as a contract lobbyist for The Chamber for over 7 years.  She previously worked with long-time Chamber lobbyist Jim Russell and served prior to that at the University of Missouri.  Nancy now owns her own political consulting business, The Giddens Group.  When Nancy is not pleading the case of The Chamber or her other clients, you can find her hanging with the family and friends or roping cattle on her family farm in Gower, MO.

Shannon Cooper has served as a contract lobbyist for The Chamber for 2 years and works with Nancy at The Giddens Group.  Shannon is a former Missouri State Representative (2000 to 2008) who held the prestigious position of Rules Chairman.  He is a proud small business owner of Wall’s General Store in Blairstown, MO and you can always find him beaming about his son Chase.

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