Kansas Common Sense
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Congress Ends FAA Furloughs, Protects Control Towers
Something rare happened in Washington this week; the Senate and House came together on a bipartisan basis to put common sense before politics. While I believe the White House already had the flexibility they needed to avoid this situation, the bill passed by the Senate on Thursday night and the House on Friday sent a clear bipartisan message to the White House: use the flexibility you have to put safety first, end the furloughs of air traffic controllers, and stop the closing of control towers. The legislation directs the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to find savings elsewhere in their budget rather than target air traffic controllers for furloughs and control towers for closure. This bipartisan solution is about safety – and is a victory for air travelers and communities nationwide.
Kansas Air Traffic Control facilities that could be impacted by the passage of this solution include: Philip Billard Municipal in Topeka; Hutchinson Municipal in Hutchinson; New Century Air Center in Olathe; Johnson County Executive in Olathe; and Manhattan Regional in Manhattan.
On Thursday as we neared a deal in the Senate, I visited with Jon Scott on Fox News Channel and Larry Kudlow on CNBC about my efforts to find a solution for the disproportionate FAA cuts. Click here to watch my interview on Fox News Channel and click here to watch my interview on CNBC. Upon final passage in the House on Friday, I visited with Gov. Mike Huckabee on his radio show about the good news as well. Click here to listen.
Protecting Citizens from the Threat of Natural Gas Explosions
Last week along with Senator Roberts, I introduced legislation to protect Kansans from the threat of dangerous natural gas explosions by allowing states to monitor underground natural gas storage in the absence of federal action. Currently at issue is a 2009 District Court ruling that determined Kansas, through the Kansas Corporation Commission, could not monitor its own storage fields if the gas in those facilities is in interstate transportation. Since then, Kansas has been barred from inspecting storage sites, and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has failed to act. In Kansas, there are 11 interstate underground storage sites containing more than 270 billion cubic feet of gas. Our country’s citizens should be protected from the threat of explosions, and this common-sense approach puts safety first. Click here to learn more.
Addressing Secretary Napolitano About the Need for NBAF
On Tuesday, I asked Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano for her assessment regarding the need for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan during a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Hearing. She also discussed the immediate need and threat Americans face if construction of the facility fails to move forward. It was clear in her testimony that the Plum Island Animal Disease Facility is dilapidated, too small and too costly to continue operating for the long term. The monetary cost to run this aging facility is increasing exponentially, and more importantly, the risk to the American people is growing as well. This budget decision reinforces the construction of NBAF and Secretary Napolitano agrees the time is now to move forward with full funding of this state-of-the-art facility. I will continue to work with the Subcommittee on Homeland Security and the Department of Homeland Security to make certain NBAF receives funding as requested. Click here to see me question Secretary Napolitano.
Increasing Energy Security with Master Limited Partnerships
This week, I joined Democractic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Congressman Ted Poe of Texas, and Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson of California in reintroducing legislation that will expand eligibility for American energy interests to structure as master limited partnerships (MLPs). The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (MLP Parity Act), S. 795 and H.R. 1696, will allow the renewable energy sector to utilize the advantageous tax structure of MLPs for project development. MLPs in essence combine the business development advantages of a corporation with the tax advantages of a partnership to facilitate easier access to capital markets. MLPs have been largely responsible for the growth in our country’s energy infrastructure. In order to grow our economy and increase our energy security, sound economic tools like the MLP should be expanded to include additional domestic energy sources. Allowing emerging technologies in the renewable energy sector to access this structure, American investors can drive development and commercialization as we seek opportunities to make our country more energy independent. This legislation simply builds on a successful model, and I look forward to working with my Senate and House colleagues on policies that will drive innovation, create American jobs, and grow our economy.
Blue Valley West Visit
Last week, it was good to visit with bright, young students from Blue Valley West High School and their teacher, Mr. Aaron Anderson. The Jaguars were in Washington, D.C., as part of the Close Up Foundation Washington Program, which allows high school students to travel to the nation’s capital to learn more about how government works and the role they can play in democracy. Click here to see a photo from their visit.
(Pictured above: Aaron Anderson, Christopher Mason, Jacob Shafer, Reed Williams, Amber Zuschlag, Mara Hennessy, Beth Gasser, Spencer Kerfoot, Blaine Smith and Carly McDonald)
Alzheimer’s Association Dinner
On Tuesday evening, I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2013 National Alzheimer’s Dinner and recognized Dennis Moore, former U.S. Representative for Kansas’s Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, for his contributions to Alzheimer’s disease research and awareness. The dinner, which was attended by more than a thousand Alzheimer’s advocates from across the country, is the keystone event for the Association’s Annual Advocacy Forum. At the dinner, Congressman Moore was presented with the “Chairman’s Award” in recognition of his leadership in Alzheimer’s advocacy. Just over a year ago, Dennis publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, he and his wife, Stephene, have worked closely with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise the profile of this disease and to advocate for research funding.
I appreciate Dennis as my friend, and I also appreciate his desire to take his own difficult challenges and focus them in helping those other individuals and families struggling with this terrible disease. I am grateful to have been invited to help recognize Dennis and many others for their leadership on this very important issue.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, I am committed to working to support the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the focal point of our nation’s medical research to discover, develop, and deliver innovative treatments to combat Alzheimer’s disease and other devastating conditions. The costs of this terrible disease are expected to rise from about $180 billion currently to roughly $1 trillion by 2050. However, medical research leading to treatments that delay the onset of Alzheimer’s could save billions. These research advances would benefit our children and our country for generations to come and provide us what we all desire for our families and friends – hope.
Kansas Honor Flight
I began Thursday by greeting World War II veterans and their guardians who were part of the Kansas Honor Flight. After the group gathered and the names of those who had passed away were read, a moving rendition of Taps was played which brought all at the memorial to a halt in tribute to our fallen. It is always a privilege for me to visit with these heroes at the World War II Memorial, and I was happy to see Senator Dole there, as well. I am grateful to all who make the Honor Flight possible. Click here to see a photo of me and Larnard Smith of Wichita.
Discussing Kansas Health Care Concerns with Secretary Sebelius
On Wednesday, I participated in a Senate Appropriations Labor-Health-Education Subcommittee hearing on the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I serve as Ranking Member of this subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for most agencies within HHS. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was the witness at this hearing, so it presented an opportunity to ask her perspective on a number of health care issues important to our state and nation.
In this difficult economic environment, Congress is struggling with difficult budget decisions. I am concerned that the Administration’s HHS budget request is 10.5 percent, or $6.9 billion, above current spending levels. It also greatly concerns me that we still do not know the true costs or effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For example, it was recently announced that HHS would transfer Fiscal Year 2013 funding from the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund to fill some of the gap for the Administration’s health insurance exchange implementation. This decision takes public health dollars supported by the fund and diverts it towards the Administration’s priority. As the Administration scrambles to find funding to implement the ACA, it is critical that it does not continue to use a haphazard “rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul” strategy. We need to set funding priorities to ensure balance and increase certainty across all aspects of our nation’s health care system.
Sec. Sebelius and I discussed several concerns I have with proposals within the Administration’s budget that would disproportionately affect Kansas and other rural states by jeopardizing access to essential health care for patients and threatening the survival of many rural hospitals. I raised these issues because I think it is extremely important that Washington recognize that health care access is essential to the survival and success of rural communities across the country. Like last year, the Administration’s budget seeks to cut Medicare reimbursements to small, rural hospitals classified as Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and completely eliminate the enhanced reimbursement some of these hospitals receive to account for the higher costs of providing care in rural areas. 65 percent of Kansas’ hospitals are CAHs and they, along with other rural hospitals, already operate on thin or negative margins to care for an increasingly aging patient population across a wide area. Under the Administration’s budget proposals, I fear many of these facilities will be squeezed to the point where they will be forced to significantly limit services to patients.
As Congress continues to work within a limited budgetary environment, funding should be targeted to programs that show proven and effective results. Therefore, I am pleased to see that the Administration has requested a funding increase for the National Institutes of Health, the focal point of our nation’s medical research capacity. In the last 30 years, biomedical research has yielded significant scientific discoveries that have extended life, reduced illness, lowered health care costs, and driven economic growth in Kansas and across our country. I believe we need to continue our commitment to advancing medical research to make tomorrow’s health breakthroughs possible and to strengthen our nation’s position as a global leader in medical innovation. Click here to see video clips of my discussions with Sec. Sebelius.
Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers Annual Convention
Back in Kansas for the weekend, I attended and gave remarks at the Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers Annual Convention in Lawrence. It was a great opportunity to speak at the convention once again, and we discussed the future of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) plans to stop delivering letter mail on Saturdays. The USPS is facing annual deficits that will continue until Congress approves reform legislation, which has been delayed for far too long. Smart reforms are needed so that the USPS is not forced into making tough, controversial decisions without Congressional approval, and to provide increased business certainty to the $1 trillion mailing industry.
Last Congress, I voted in favor of the bipartisan 21st Century Postal Service Act which would have given the USPS tools it needs to return to stable financial footing. However, this bill failed to make its way to the President to be signed into law. I encourage this Congress to act quickly to resolve the burdens of the USPS before it becomes a taxpayer liability.
Thank you and congratulations to President Rod Holub for inviting me to participate and for his years of service to the Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Sarah Hill-Nelson of Lawrence
American Academy of Neurology
Sean Gratton of Shawnee Mission
American Council of Engineering Companies of Kansas
Scott Heidner of Topeka
Kenzil Lynn of Salina
Tim Ross of Lenexa
Katie Garman of Overland Park
Michael Lally of Overland Park
Kevin Honomichl of Overland Park
Paul Weida of Overland Park
Dianne Honomichl of Overland Park
Susan Ramza of Mission Woods
Emily Ramza of Mission Woods
Brain Ramza of Mission Woods
John Ramza of Mission Woods
Daryle Buchholz of Manhattan
Kyle Fulton of Spearville
Ray Bartholomew of Manhattan
Barbara Stone of Manhattan
Cristina Petty of Hill City
Anna Muir of Stockton
Dean Fitzsimmons of Cunningham
Christopher Petty of Hill City
Chuck Otte of Junction City
Nancy Honig of Hugoton
Waldon Wolfe of Abilene
Andrew Etkind of Olathe
Tim Johnson of Olathe
John Preis of Overland Park
Online Lenders Association
William Dugan of Overland Park
Mark Curry of Mission
Kansas Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
Arturo Thompson of Lawrence
Berexco/ Trenton Agricultural Products
Charlie Wilson of Wichita
Robert White of Olathe
American Society of Landscape Architects
Rick Howell of Prairie Village
David Contag of Overland Park
Kansas Space Suppliers
Ryan Hernandez of Augusta
American Hotel and Lodging Association
Chandler Wiens of Overland Park
American Society of Landscape Architects
Rick Howell of Prairie Village
David Contag of Overland Park
Matthew Carlile of Hays
Community Bankers Association of Kansas
Shawn Mitchell of Topeka
Paul Boeding of Seneca
Marilyn Boeding of Seneca
Calvin Coady of Wichita
Michael Eagan of Overland Park
Steven Handke of Everest
Blake Heid of Paola
Michael Johnson of Courtland
Tanner Johnson of Courtland
Patrick Kerschen of Harper
Gregg Lewis of Osawatomie
Irv Mitchell of Wilson
TJ Wilson of Horton
Brad Yaeger of Wichita
Stuart Little of Topeka
National School Transportation Association
John Doswell of Hutchinson
National Telecommunications Cooperative Association
Ben Foster of Clay Center
Catherine Moyer of Newton
Steve Davis of Medicine Lodge
Rhonda Goddard of Lenora
Brian Boisvert of Wilson
Tom Gleason of Lawrence
Terrfy Force of Wheaton
Sallie Force of Wheaton
Jimmy Todd of Little River
Scott A. Bannister of Caldwell
Jason Smith of Everest
Greg Aldridge of Ark City
Susan Aldridge of Ark City
Mike Pollock Lenora
Candace Wright of Home
Brian Thompson of Blue Valley
National Endowment for the Arts
John Divine of Salina
Close Up Foundation
Aaron Anderson of Overland Park
Christopher Mason of Overland Park
Jacob Shafer of Overland Park
Reed Williams of Overland Park
Amber Zuschlag of Overland Park
Mara Hennessy of Overland Park
Beth Gasser of Overland Park
Spencer Kerfoot of Overland Park
Blaine Smith of Overland Park
Carly McDonald of Overland Park
Fraternal Government Relations Coalition
Megan Walden of Manhattan
Aaron Otto of Manhattan
Nancy Kersenbrock of Wichita
Elizabeth Hodges of Overland Park
University of Kansas Women’s Civic Leadership in the Heartland
Mary Banwart of Lawrence
Becky Eason of Lawrence
Larry Sevier of Lenora
Rhonda Goddard of Lenora
Mike Pollock of Lenora
DC Capitol Tour
Debra White of Hutchinson
Rick and Dixie Hayes of Hutchinson
Pamela Kirtley of Wichita
Robert Prose of Inman
Cale Emerson of Topeka
Cole Emerson of Topeka
Zoe Akin-Amland of Lenexa
Becci Akin of Lenexa
Nancy Mudd of Overland Park
Greg and Melissa Legleiter of Manhattan
Janet Brack of Plainville
Irene Whorton of Topeka
Becky Schulte of Goodland
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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