Kansas Common Sense
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McConnell Air Force Base KC-135 Tanker Aircraft Crash
Saturday, I was saddened to hear that a McConnell KC-135 Tanker Plane crashed in Kyrgyzstan. The three crew members on board were working to protect our country and keep our freedom within reach, and we should all be grateful for their service. I ask that all Kansans join me in keeping the family and friends of these crew members in their thoughts and prayers.
Working Toward a Victory for Common Sense
On Thursday, I joined Democratic Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut to lead 41 U.S. Senators in calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to immediately end the planned closure of 149 air traffic control towers. These towers, part of the FAA’s Contract Tower Program, are scheduled to close on June 15 unless the Administration takes action. The closing of these towers — including Air Traffic Control facilities in Topeka, Hutchinson, Olathe, and Manhattan — would cause damage to local communities, impair access to rural areas, and increase safety risks for those who travel.
The Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013, which overwhelmingly passed Congress on Friday, April 26, and was signed into law by the President, gives the FAA an additional $253 million in funding flexibility to prevent furloughs for air traffic controllers and keep all contract towers open. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has acknowledged that this funding flexibility is enough to protect both air traffic controllers and the 149 contract towers, and the strong, bipartisan coalition of Senators behind our letter seeks to hold Secretary LaHood to his word.
The Contract Tower Program has been targeted for a 75 percent cut as part of the FAA’s attempts to implement sequestration budget cuts, while other accounts within the agency are subjected to only 5 percent reductions. It is my hope that the FAA will soon announce its intent to use their additional funding authority to avoid the damaging closures of 149 towers, in a tremendous victory for common sense. Click here to learn more.
Sending a Message to President Obama About the Veterans Claim Backlog
The backlog of disability claims within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a persistent and expanding problem that is unacceptable. This week, I joined my colleagues in signing a bipartisan letter to President Obama requesting his involvement to provide our veterans with the timely assistance they deserve to end this backlog. No veteran should have to wait up to a year, or in the worst cases multiple years, to have decisions made vital to their well-being. If you are a veteran who is having difficulty completing your claim with the VA, please contact my Wichita office at (316) 631-1410. You can read a copy of the letter here.
Visiting Paola High School
This week, I visited a senior government class at Paola High School (PHS) to get acquainted with them prior to speaking at their commencement in a few weeks. We had a great conversation about the pride they have for their community and school, and that it’s really the students who make it a special place. I also met PHS Student Body President Tanner Morris. Thank you to PHS Principal Phil Bressler and government teacher Christie Sims for allowing me time with this great class of students. Click here to see a picture from my visit.
Visiting Sabetha Kiwanis Club
I also had the opportunity to speak to the Sabetha Kiwanis Club. Just as I have always believed that we change the world one person at a time, members of Kiwanis Clubs strive to help one child at a time, and I strongly support their mission.
I enjoyed hearing the perspectives of attendees on a range of topics — from the importance of protecting Second Amendment rights to making certain those in rural American have access to quality health care. Thanks again to Doug Clark for the invitation to visit, and to the Sabetha Kiwanis Club invite and Club President Roger Young for the warm welcome. Click here to see a photo from the event.
Touring SKF Sealing Solutions
In 1976, SKF Sealing Solutions, an international company with plants in nine different countries, opened a plant in Seneca, Kansas, with a mission that could mutually benefit the Nemaha County community: create jobs in rural America and provide their manufacturing plant with a labor base that understands the meaning of a Midwest work ethic. Almost 40 years later, SKF Sealing Solutions employs more than 140 workers and continues to make a great product right here in Kansas. This week, I had the opportunity to tour the SKF plant, which manufactures more than 2,800 types of sealing parts and provides jobs to folks in five Northeast Kansas counties. I also was glad to hear that the production out of North Carolina, will be transitioning to Seneca. Thank you to SKF Plant Manager Keith Imholte for the invitation and the opportunity to learn more about one of the good things going on in our state. Click here to see a photo from the visit.
Touring New Century AirCenter
I had the opportunity to tour and meet with staff from the New Century AirCenter along with Johnson County Commissioners. I learned it was built for military purposes, but is now used for business and flight training. The AirCenter is also fully funded by the New Century Business Park and requires no county subsidies — a rarity. Thank you to Johnson County Airport Commission Executive Director Lee Metcalf for the opportunity to learn more about the resources the airport provides the business community.
Olathe’s FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center
I toured the Olathe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Route Traffic Control Center this week and was joined by Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland and leadership of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The control center is one of 20 in the United States that directs air traffic in our country, and it was fascinating to see how the controllers, equipment and technology work together to keep our skies safe for air travelers. Also housed at the center is a national weather office, which allows staff members to work together in providing alternate routes during storms and turbulence. Thank you to National Air Traffic Controller Association Representative Alan MacDonald for the invitation to see a critical component of the FAA. Click here to see a photo from the tour.
Never Contract with the Enemy Legislation
Last week, I cosponsored the Never Contract with the Enemy Act, which is based on the belief that U.S. government contracts should not be used to funnel money to enemies. This legislation aims to make certain taxpayer dollars remain out of the hands of organizations or entities that seek to do harm by quickly terminating contracts or agreements across the federal government, regardless of the contract location, that allow taxpayer dollars to reach enemies.
An audit released last month from the Inspector General on contracts in Afghanistan provided various recommendations to improve this oversight function, all of which are included in this legislation and are supported by top military officials. Tax payer dollars should never be wasted, but especially not on the unacceptable circumstance of falling into enemy hands.
Baldwin City Rotary
I attended Baldwin City Rotary Club at Baker University. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet with Baldwin City residents and discuss some of the concerns they have regarding the future of our nation. They agree that we must stay focused on addressing our fiscal crisis and continue to bring the Kansas perspective to Washington D.C. Additional concerns from club members included gun control, crop insurance and reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses and community banks. Thank you to Riley Winkler for the invitation to attend.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Campaign for Quality Construction
Bob Looman of Lenexa
Kansas National Education Association
Kim Howard of Wichita
Bob Thesman of Kansas City
Center for Civic Education
Sue and Carl Boldra of Hays
Wichita State University
Andy Schlapp of Wichita
John Tomblin of Wichita
Kansas Orthopaedic Society
Brad Daily of Salina
Maya Daily of Salina
Tess Daily of Salina
Charles Craig of Newton
Gary Caruthers of Topeka
Barbara Sack of Overland Park
Association for Advanced Life Underwriting
Chris Cardone of Leawood
Sean Seyb of Leawood
Kansas Society of Anesthesiologists
Mark Brady of Overland Park
Jesse Weir of Overland Park
Doug Smith of Topeka
Shervin Razavaian of Kansas City
Catherine Moyer of Ulysses
Ron Rahjes of Kensington
Scott Whittington of Burlington
National Teachers Hall of Fame
Carol Strickland of Emporia
Lindy Whetzel of Emporia
Kansas Hospital Association
Vicki Hahn of Leoti
Steve Kelly of Newton
Vallerie Gleason of Wichita
Leonard Hernandez of Wellington
Amy Franks of Chanute
Larry Van DerWege of Lindsborg
Tom Bell of Topeka
Chad Austin of Topeka
Dallas Polen of Overland Park
Andy Dunkel of Topeka
Dennis Franks of Chanute
American Society for Radiation Oncology
Xinglei Shen of Kansas City
American Academy of Pediatrics
Ellen Squire of Hays
Kent Wells of Garden City
Kansas Electric Cooperatives
Don Helling of Solomon
Randy Quint of Dodge City
Carol Tieben of Dodge City
Sharon Mueller of Garden City
Carol Dorn of Burlingame
Melisa Doeblin of Topeka
Wes Campbell of Garden City
Phil Wages of Topeka
Helen Helling of Solomon
A.W. Pickel III of Overland Park
Arkansas City High School
David Zumwalt of Arkansas City
Doug Scott of Wichita
Lyn Robert of Wichita
Eric Elsmo of Wichita
DC Capitol Tour
Bart and Donna Hamilton of Stockton
Haven Hamilton of Stockton
Tatum Hamilton of Stockton
Le and Hong Pham of Westwood
David and Diana Brosa of Tecumseh
Tod and Angela Myers of Salina
Sharon and Michelle Hoppenstedt of Manhattan
Colonel George Webb of Topeka
Rick and April Webb of Russell
Brettan Webb of Russell
Nathan and Ann Goodnight of Olathe
Irv Mitchell of Wilson
Teresa Vernon of Salina
Scott and Jennifer Bronson of Leawood
Rachel Bronson of Leawood
Rebekah of Bronson of Leawood
Max and Tonya Long of Glade
Skye Long of Glade
Patrick and Regina Madden of Olathe
Matt and Valerie Zimmerman of Emporia
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. In recent weeks, I’ve been listening to Kansans calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the debt crisis and big issues our country faces. Whether your thoughts are in the form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, please know that I am listening and I appreciate messages from Kansans who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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