JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The bipartisan and informal Kansas City Caucus elected new leadership Tuesday night. Rep. Jack Bondon will become the new Republican leader of the organization, and Rep. Rory Rowland will lead the Democrats to co-chair the group comprised of roughly 35 legislators from the region.
Republican Rep. Kevin Corlew and Democrat Rep. DaRon McGee will serve as the vice chairs from their respective parties.
The bipartisan coalition was founded six years ago by Rep. T.J. Berry to make sure legislators from the area could have an open and frank forum to discuss issues affecting Kansas City. Before Berry’s action, that was not necessarily the case for the state’s second largest metro area.
“There was a sense that other regions had a better way of communicating and coordinating for regional issues, and we wanted to make sure Kansas City had a strong voice on the things we believed were important to us,” Bondon said.
The caucus does not focus too much on hugely contentious issues, such as the state of Missouri’s control over the Kansas City police department. Instead, it uses its bipartisan membership to better understand how to solve problems that a strong consensus of legislators, local elected officials (including mayors), and constituents believe would benefit the city.
“That’s one of the important things for us… Making sure we’re all on the same page,” Rowland said. Knowing what their priorities are, what their agendas are, what they would like to see going forward.”
One example is the HCR offered by Rep. Noel Shull that would grant the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority the ability to issue bonds to move the conservatory at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to the new downtown campus. Their current facilities have become outdated and the conservatory risks losing accreditation as a result. The state cannot help because of the budget crunch.
“Kansas City and the citizens thereof have raised 48 million of private money under the auspices they would be able to apply for the state 50/50 match program,” Bondon said. “This year with the budget constraints, that simply cannot happen, we do not have $48 million to help build a new conservatory.”
The caucus also provides a good balance of both parties as many Republican and Democratic representatives represent segments of Kansas City. Rowland says it makes sure all concerns are addressed, and that it helps foster relationships between legislators, as it has between him and Bondon.
“We’re on both sides of the aisle, and it’s helped us,” he said. “There’s a lot more to agree upon in the state of Missouri with our colleagues across the aisle than there is to disagree on.”