Network leaders travel to Jeff City to engage with state lawmakers
In the final weeks of the 2021 legislative session, several members from The Network for Young Professionals Leadership Council had a first-hand opportunity to engage in the lawmaking process in Jefferson City.
Current Network chair Jessica Harmison-Olson of Maxon Fine Jewelry, vice chair Dee King, and past chair Ryan Sivill of BKD traveled to Jefferson City on May 5 for the annual Network Day at the Capitol. They met with Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, representatives from the governor’s office, and several southwest Missouri lawmakers to advocate for important business community issues.
Key priorities included long-term funding to support transportation infrastructure, the collection of an online sales tax, COVID-19 liability protections, support for Springfield tourism efforts and more. Each of these legislative priorities has potential to reach Governor Parson’s desk for final approval, but all face major hurdles before the end of session on Friday, May 14.
This yearly Network day in Jefferson City helps young professionals engage in Chamber advocacy efforts and expose key YP leaders to state lawmakers.
Past Chair Ryan Sivill, a previous attendee on this trip, has advocated for many these specific priorities for several years. He understands both the importance of this type of engagement and the thorough process that results in the positions the Chamber Board approves.
“I have trust in the Springfield Chamber to study and vet these priorities based on an established process, which is member driven. That process gives me confidence that we are advocating for priorities which are supported by the business community and are ultimately good for our region and state as a whole,” Sivill said.
Although this year’s group was smaller due to COVID-19 considerations, the significant impact this type of engagement and advocacy was not diminished throughout the many conversations had with legislators.
Chair Jessica Harmison-Olson particularly focused on the impact the collection of an online sales tax, or a “Wayfair” bill, would have on her as a small-business owner.
“My biggest competitors are companies similar to Amazon,” Harmison-Olson said. “This is truly a fairness issue for local businesses that provide jobs and support the community. Passing an online sales tax would level the playing field and have a huge impact on my business’ ability to thrive and grow in Springfield.”
This was Vice Chair Dee King’s first-ever trip to the Capitol, and she was both surprised by the authentic conversations and encouraged by the level of respect the Springfield Chamber and young professionals have among lawmakers.
“The reputation and relationships the Chamber and southwest Missouri business community has built in the Capitol were clear through the insightful and honest meetings we had,” King said. “I could feel the impact our presence had and appreciate this level of engagement now more than ever.”
Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe spoke to members during the Chamber’s 2021 Annual Meeting on May 7 and specifically mentioned his conversation with this group of young professionals just two days prior, referencing the importance of engaging at the state level.
“Your Chamber is at the Capitol all the time, including a group of young professionals who were just there, and is well-respected,” Kehoe said. “Your presence is important, and when someone who represents the business community comes to speak to elected officials, that makes a huge difference.”
The Chamber will continue to advocate for Board-approved legislative priorities and update members on any significant successes as session concludes.