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Opinion: Cass County flexed its political muscle in effort to block landfill

Lost in the shuffle of the end of session this year is the issue of a proposed landfill in southern Jackson County near Raymore. It’s easy to forget that the Senate was shut down in the second to last week of session over this, and many legislators clearly have it near, or at the top, of their priorities. The legislation ultimately came up short, but there was a concentrated effort to get a bill passed that would extend the barrier between a municipality and where you could build a landfill, which would effectively kill the proposed project. There was also a quiet effort to appropriate money in the budget to study the proposed site, and even though that line item was vetoed, I would expect those efforts to continue.

Make no mistake, the leadership in Cass County, and the City of Raymore, have taken a great deal of leadership to prevent this project from happening, and they deserve a ton of credit. The County Commission saw this coming from a mile (or in this case a half a mile) away, and they started an effort early on the process. Passing legislation in Jefferson City has always been just one of many options. They engaged their community effectively, and they’re clearly winning the grassroots battle. The Cass County Commission, and the City of Raymore, are doing everything they can for their constituents, the vast majority of which don’t want a landfill in their backyard.

There was a lot of talk about the number of lobbyists hired to protect the landfill from being shuttered by politicians, but Cass County and Raymore hired some topflight lobbyists on their side, too. You have to think that Cass County Commissioner Ryan Johnson probably had a hand in that, given his knowledge of how the state capitol works.

On the other side of the coin, give credit to the folks who are trying to build the landfill. They saw the grassroots opposition building quickly and hired an all-star team of lobbyists to protect their interests at the Capitol. They had one objective this year: Stop legislation that would restrict their project, and they succeeded. It’s now a question of how long they can keep playing defense.

Now, even though the legislation wasn’t passed, that doesn’t mean the landfill is getting built. A deal was struck involving leadership in Kansas City. With precious days of legislative session winding down, and no break to a filibuster in the Senate in sight, there needed to be a way to give everyone a win. Kansas City leadership agreed to reassess the approval of the landfill on a local level in exchange for the legislation to effectively die this session. Additionally, quietly placed in the budget there was a line item for the Department of Natural Resources to do a feasibility study of the proposed site for the landfill. Governor Parson vetoed this line item along with about $500 million worth of other items in the budget. I suspect that there will be continued effort from legislators to get this passed next session to keep the pressure on Kansas City.

This is sure to be an issue that continues for the next couple of years, both at the state and local level in Kansas City. It’s a classic case of walking the line between allowing free enterprise while acknowledging that people don’t want some things like a landfill in their backyard. Even though efforts to effectively block the landfill through state statute failed this year, there are many different routes that it could be blocked going forward.