Kansas Common Sense
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Presidents' Day Recess
While Senate is in recess for Presidents' Day, I'm glad to be back in Kansas to visit with my constituents and get a good dose of Kansas common sense. See below an overview of my plans for the week:
Yesterday, I attended Marysville Rotary Club and toured Riley County High School. This morning, I spoke at the Topeka Chamber of Commerce Breakfast and then am headed to Forbes Field to visit the 190th Air Refueling Wing. Then, I'm off to Lawrence to meet with the University of Kansas Research Institute. Join me in Olathe at 4 p.m. today for a joint town hall meeting with Congressman Yoder and Senator Roberts.
Tomorrow, I'll be in McPherson touring the Johns Manville plant.
Thursday, I'll be in the Wichita area. First, I'm touring Derby High School. Then, I'll be at the Wal-Mart Foundation's Kansas State Giving Program and Kansas Associate Choice Program. Lastly, I'll be speaking at the opening cermonies of the Annual Kansas Music Educators Association Workshop.
Congratulating Kansas Universities on 150 Years
On Wednesday, Senator Roberts and I introduced resolutions in the Senate congratulating Kansas State University and Emporia State University on the 150th anniversary of their founding.
These universities have provided a high quality education to thousands of Kansans and Americans. Today, more than 70,000 alumni call themselves ESU Hornets, and more than 200,000 call themselves K-State Wildcats. Throughout all 150 years, these two universities have been essential to the success of our state and nation, and I hope they enjoy even more success in the next 150.
On Friday, I joined hundreds of Kansans in celebration of these historic anniversaries. I traveled to Emporia to celebrate ESU’s 150 years with guests at the university’s annual “Founders’ Day Luncheon.” Later, I traveled to Manhattan to celebrate K-State’s 150 years with guests at the university’s “Gala One Fifty.” Thanks to ESU President Michael Shonrock and ESU Director of Alumni Relations Tyler Curtis for inviting me to celebrate with Emporia State. And thank you to Don Hoffman for hosting Robba and me at K-State’s celebration.
State of the Union
President Obama gave his State of the Union Address Tuesday. I was hoping he would outline an agenda focused on policies that promote economic growth, job creation, and opportunities for every American. Unfortunately, he delivered the same message of higher taxes and spending, more regulation of our lives and businesses, and refused to address the need for solvent Social Security and Medicare programs. It is no wonder our economy is shrinking and businesses not hiring.
This President and Congress must work to make certain our nation remains a place where the American dream is alive and well. I’m ready to work with my colleagues to reduce spending, encourage entrepreneurship and small businesses, reform our complicated tax code, and reduce unnecessary regulations.
Kansas City Kansas Community College Trustee Mary Ann Flunder was my guest at the State of the Union address. I appreciate all she does to support higher education in Kansas.
Senate Passage of Violence Against Women Act
Last week, I voted in favor of legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), S.47. The bill maintains the current funding level for VAWA, without adding to the budget deficit, and focuses resources on helping victims.
In visiting domestic violence shelters and speaking with numerous advocates, their message was clear – do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Republicans and Democrats have traditionally united to pass VAWA legislation and I wanted to make certain we seized the opportunity to pass this bill in a bipartisan fashion. Even during my time in the House of Representatives, I was a supporter of VAWA legislation and have delivered related speeches on the House and Senate floors.
Startup Act 3.0 Introduced to Jumpstart American Economy
This week, I introduced Startup Act 3.0 along with U.S. Senators Mark Warner of Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Roy Blunt of Missouri. It is an improved version of my bipartisan jobs bill, Startup Act 2.0. The introduction of Startup Act 3.0, S. 310, will make certain Congress remains focused on the role entrepreneurs and small businesses play in job creation. Since 1980, nearly all of the net new jobs created in the United States have been created by companies less than five years old. In fact, startups create an average of three million jobs each year. If we want to create jobs for Americans, we must create an environment in the United States where individuals can launch and grow new businesses.
Delay in Hagel Confirmation
A few weeks ago, I spoke with former-U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, the President’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, to discuss issues relevant to military activities in Kansas and our national security. I asked Sen. Hagel’s views on a number of issues like the impact of sequestration on defense programs, our relationship with Israel, and turmoil in the Middle East including concerns with Iran’s nuclear agenda and chaos in Syria.
Last week, I voted to delay the vote on Hagel’s confirmation to allow time for the White House to respond to additional questions from my Senate colleagues. Before confirming a nominee, we deserve answers to make certain our next Secretary of Defense is ready to lead and make smart policy decisions on behalf of the Department of Defense and our country. The vote to confirm is expected to take place on February 26.
First Appropriations Committee Hearing in 2013
On Thursday, I participated in the first Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in the 113th Congress. The subject of the hearing was sequestration, which are automatic budget cuts to federal agencies to reduce spending by roughly $1 trillion over the next decade. The indiscriminate cuts sequestration will impose are irresponsible because they arbitrarily cut funding for valuable initiatives while leaving wasteful, ineffective programs largely intact.
While I believe that Congress must reduce federal spending and lower our national debt, sequestration is a poor way to do so. I feel strongly that Congress and the President must do the jobs we were elected to do: pass a responsible budget to prioritize the programs that effectively and efficiently serve the American people.
In fiscal year 2011, the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated $40 million dollars to the Department of Homeland Security for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, known as NBAF, in Manhattan. Unfortunately, the contract to move forward with construction has yet to be awarded and Thursday I had the chance to question Secretary Napolitano about exactly why the agency has not released the appropriated funds and construction on the Central Utility Plant. NBAF is an essential part of our national security and must be constructed to protect Americans from biological threats.
Click here to see the hearing.
Swift Action Needed on Russia's U.S. Meat Ban
I was disappointed to learn this week that Russia has banned imports of all U.S. beef, pork, turkey and other meat products from entering Russian markets by requiring zero tolerance for the presence of ractopamine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the United Nation’s Codex Alimentarius Commission – the preeminent food safety international standards organization – have shown that the animal feed ractopamine is safe at approved levels. Safety is the number one priority for U.S. producers and the Russian government should rest assured that all U.S. meat products meet the highest of safety standards for domestic and international consumption. Hundreds of millions of dollars is at stake for Kansas and American producers over a misunderstanding about sound science.
Meeting with Kansas City Realtors
On Monday, I met with realtors from the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS® Kansas Government Affairs Committee before returning to Washington, D.C. They were happy to share the housing market is picking up and their phones are ringing again. They asked me to continue to work on housing issues, especially retaining the mortgage interest deduction as member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Housing continues to play a critical role in the economic recovery. Thank you to Jeff Carson for the invitation and for organizing the meeting.
Visiting with Kansas Community College Presidents and Trustees
Administrators and trustees representing our state’s community colleges traveled to Washington this week to meet with the Kansas Congressional Delegation and attend the Association of Community College Trustees’ 2013 National Legislative Summit. This event provided me with the opportunity to learn more about areas of educational opportunity and the innovative skills being offered to students enrolled at Kansas community colleges and for the community college trustees and presidents to tell me their priorities. These institutions play a major role in educating the skilled workers necessary for economic growth across our state. Presidents and trustees from the following colleges visited my office this week: Seward County Community College/Area Technical School; Dodge City Community College and Area Technical Center; Hutchinson Community College and Area Vocational School; Butler Community College; Kansas City Kansas Community College; and Johnson County Community College. I also visited with these Kansans at a reception on Tuesday evening hosted by the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees.
Presenting Medals to Clay Center Vietnam Veteran
On Sunday, I had the privilege of presenting medals to Vietnam War veteran Patrick Ramsey of Clay Center. Mr. Ramsey served as a helicopter pilot and Infantry Officer during the Vietnam War. Enlisting in 1967, he logged approximately 1,000 hours as a combat pilot before returning to Ft. Riley where he served on active duty until 1973. He joined the Kansas National Guard in 1975 and continued to serve our country until 1991. Mr. Ramsey received the Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal & Bronze Star Attachment (Triple), Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device, Expert Badge and Pistol Bar, Marksman Badge and Auto Rifle Bar, and Army Aviation-Aircraft Crewman Badge. It was an honor to present Mr. Ramsey with the medals he earned more than 40 years ago. Thanks to Mr. Ramsey and all of our nation’s veterans for your service and sacrifice that allows us to live in the strongest, freest and greatest nation in the world.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Seward County Community College/Area Technical School
Duane Dunn of Liberal
American Medical Association
Elizabeth Cristiano of Lansing
Alicia Gingrich of Overland Park
Atiqullah Ahmadullah of Newton
Sarah Bergkamp of Garden Plain
Dr. Lillian Pardo of Mission Hills
Nadia Azam of Overland Park
Dodge City Community College
Dr. Don Woodburn of Dodge City
Kansas Rural Water Association
Dennis Schwartz of Tecumseh
Allan Soetaert of Gardner
Elmer Ronnebaum of Seneca
Families Together Inc.
Donna Yadrich of Kansas City
Jessica Morrow of Lenexa
Tami Schwindt of Garden City
Fort Hays State University
Jolene Niernberger of Hays
Lyndon Dren of Wichita
Hutchinson Community College
Dr. Ed Berger of Hutchinson
David Marshall of Hutchinson
Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas
Kathy Smith of Wichita
Kelly Bergeron of Wichita
American Federation of Government Employees
Garth Stocking of Kansas City
Joan R. Flaherly of Shawnee
Cheeyl Hainled of Kansas City
Amy O’Rourke of Bonner Springs
Kansas Medical Society
Mark Synovec of Topeka
Michael Machen of Quinter
Lynn Fisher of Plainville
Nancy Sullivan of Topeka
Rachelle Colombo of Topeka
Bart Grelinger of Wichita
Donna Sweet of Wichita
Jon Rosell of Wichita
James Wetzel of Kansas City
Jacque Amspacker of Kansas City
Julie Goonewardene of Lawrence
Kay Brada of Lawrence
Mid-America Regional Council Board
Mayor Ron Shaffer of Prairie Village
Ed Peterson of Olathe
Marge Vogt of Olathe
David Warm of Olathe
Marlene Nagel of Olathe
Sunflower Electric Power Corporation
Stuart Lowry of Hays
National Sorghum Producers Representatives
Pat Dammon of Clifton
Janna Splitter of Lyons
Tanner Ehmke of Dighton
Josh Levin of Kensington
Shayne Suppes of Dighton
Stephen Bigge of Stockton
Earl Roemer of Scott City
Kendall Hage of Little River
Martin Kerschen of Garden Plain
Sue Schulte of Garnett
Tim Lust of Garnett
National Guard Association of Kansas
Chris Stratmann of Topeka
Michele Henry of Salina
Ken Weishaar of Topeka
Steve Denney of Lawrence
Kansas Grain and Feed Association
Tom Tunnell of Topeka
Stan Stark of Haviland
Pete Goetzmann of Overland Park
Mike Shirley of Overland Park
IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service
Desiree Frierson of Wichita
Kansas City Kansas Community College
Sheriff Donald Ash of Kansas City
Mary Ann Flunder of Kansas City
Butler County Community College
Dr. Karla Fisher of El Dorado
Ron Engelbrecht of El Dorado
National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance
Darren Unruh of Pretty Prairie
Geremy Larson of Overland Park
Online Lenders Alliance
Mark Curry of Mission
Bart Miller of Leawood
Josh Landy of Leawood
BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka
ICE Corporation/Manhattan Aviation Company
National Trail System
Ross Marshall of Overland Park
Johnson County Community College
Dr. Joe Sopcich of Overland Park
Dick Carter of Topeka
National Farmers Union
Donn Teske of Wheaton
American Burn Association
Dr. Dhaval Bhavsar of Kansas City
Dan Toughey of Lenexa
Ed Britan of Lenexa
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.
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