Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them. It was great to get back to the Kansas State Fair this weekend to visit with Kansans. Thank you to the Kansas State Fair Board Members and staff who put in countless hours of planning to ensure the success of the 100th Kansas State Fair.
Today, I am back in Washington, D.C., for hearings, briefings, debates. I have appreciated the opportunity to spend the past month having conversations and town halls, and have always seen my job as both in Washington, D.C. and in our home state. The issues I prioritize and how I vote is greatly influenced by my time in Kansas. Thanks to the hundreds, if not thousands, of Kansans who visited with me at more than 50 stops across the state over the past month.
Washington Navy Yard Shooting
Today, there was a tragic shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. — just half a mile from the Capitol. Please keep the victims, their families, and our brave law enforcement officers and first responders in your thoughts and prayers as we wait for resolution.
This Wednesday we remembered what no one will ever forget that September morning when they heard the news: America is under attack. On that fateful day, four passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an open field in Pennsylvania – taking nearly 3,000 innocent lives in the worst attack on our country since Pearl Harbor. Wednesday marked twelve years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, but we still clearly recall the terror of that morning and those who bravely acted on behalf of America in the seconds, days, and months following. The world has changed since that day, but the American spirit remains resilient and strong.
We also paused remember the four American lives lost in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi just one year ago. As the families of those lost continue to search for answers, we must reaffirm our commitment to protecting this country and its ideals from those who wish to do us harm.
Update on Military Intervention in Syria
This week, I met with President Obama, reviewed his speech to the American people, and attended a classified briefing in the White House situation room about potential military action in Syria. I deplore the tragic loss of life and strongly desire an end to the killing, especially of innocent civilians, but I remain opposed to the use of military force in Syria. It is becoming increasingly clear that the President does not have a coherent strategy for intervention. He continually fails to detail the parameters of our national security interests, goals and an exit strategy. Furthermore, America’s military leaders and other experts have stated that intervening in Syria would be very difficult, and I am concerned that our resources and military may be further strained.
Since this conflict began in 2011, I have encouraged President Obama to implement sanctions against the Assad regime in order to protect civilians and have supported an amendment to the Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act that sanctions those who violate human rights, engage in censorship, and provide technology to commit human rights abuses in Syria. As a peaceful solution is sought, I am following diplomatic developments between the United States, Russia and Syria. I have doubts negotiations will be successful, and should they fail, I expect the President to return to Capitol Hill and allow Congress to use its Constitutionally-vested power to debate and vote on whether to intervene in Syria. Our country cannot afford another conflict that taxes our resources without achieving goals that advance American interests.
Conducting a Tele-Town Hall with Thousands of Kansans
This week, I reached out to thousands of Kansans on the phone through a teletown hall meeting. This technology allows me to stay in touch with Kansans while I am working in Washington during the week. I appreciated the opportunity to talk with Kansans across our state and discuss a wide range of topics including military intervention in Syria, Obamacare and immigration. Thanks to everyone who participated and listened in, and to those who left messages with my office following the call. My office will work to respond to your questions as soon as possible.
Concerns with HHS OIG Report on Critical Access Hospitals
Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that proposes eliminating Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation for any hospital currently participating in the CAH program in accordance with state “necessary provider” designations. Kansas has 83 CAHs – which are small, rural hospitals that receive an enhanced Medicare reimbursement so they are able to provide care to increasingly aging populations across wide rural areas – more than any other state. Around one-third of Kansas’ CAHs came into the program as necessary providers designated by then governor and now HHS Secretary Sebelius. Seventy-two of Kansas’ 83 CAHs could be impacted if Congress were to pass legislation implementing this OIG report’s recommendations.
I believe this report fails to comprehend the reality of health care delivery in Kansas and across rural America. If implemented, these proposals would immediately jeopardize the survival of CAHs and other rural hospitals in our state and endanger Kansans’ access to health care in their own communities. Eliminating CAHs under the report’s proposals would trigger a chain reaction that would result in multiple hospitals suddenly facing substantial Medicare cuts and severe financial challenges. The absurd result of such a scheme would most likely lead to the closure of multiple hospitals within a given proximity, severely rationing care in rural America. These hospitals comprise a significant component of Kansas’ health care safety net, and are essential to the survival and success of many Kansas communities. They are also one of the largest employers in their communities.
The CAH program was created to address and strengthen the unique challenges rural health care providers face. It is vital that Kansans, health care providers and community leaders make this case to their elected officials in Washington to oppose any effort to enact these flawed proposals into law. Click here to read more about my efforts to oppose these proposals and other policies the Administration has proposed that would disproportionately affect Kansas and other rural states by threatening the survival of rural hospitals.
Turner House Children’s Clinic in KCK
Before flying back to Washington D.C. on Monday, I stopped by Turner House Children's Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas. In 2012, the clinic earned national recognition as a Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Council of Quality Assurance. The quality of care provided by the medical home is paying off through positive outcomes for kids in KCK. Thanks to Executive Director Janet Burton for taking time to share the good things Turner House is making happen in Kansas. On October 3, Turner House is hosting a “Kicks 4 Kids” breakfast at Sporting Park KC to benefit the hospital, click here for more information. Click here to see a photo.
Joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing
On Tuesday, the American Legion testified before the Joint House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to present their 2013 Legislative Priorities. It was a pleasure to speak with K.T. Gregg, former American Legion Kansas State Commander, and Chuck Yunker, current American Legion Kansas State Adjutant, about important issues facing Kansas veterans. I reaffirmed my commitment to make certain the VA claims backlog is diminished and that the IRS does not violate the privacy of our nation’s heroes with unnecessary audit requirements.
The American Legion has approximately 14,000 Posts around the country and it seems to me that the IRS has bigger problems to solve than auditing our veteran service organizations. Like many members of the American Legion, I don’t understand the motivation of the IRS when veteran service organizations, like the American Legion, try so diligently to expose phony veterans versus including such “Stolen Valor” offenders from becoming part of their membership. The American Legion has a formal, codified process to verify military service that includes review of a member’s DD-214. Their military service is verified upon admittance to an American Legion post. Once a veteran, always a veteran: their status as a veteran doesn’t change and the IRS should not jeopardize the livelihood of posts around the country that are operating in compliance with regulations with proof of military service for their veterans.
Pictured (left to right): K.T. Gregg, former American Legion Kansas State Commander and Chuck Yunker, current American Legion Kansas State Adjutant.
Questioning the FCC at an Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing
On Wednesday, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee invited the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to discuss their FY2014 budget request and the work of the agency. I had an opportunity to question Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai about the FCC’s 2011 Universal Service reform effort, which has created uncertainty for many Kansas telecommunications companies. The FCC’s order puts the Universal Service Fund, which all American consumers pay into via their phone bills, on a budget. Unfortunately, the information used to develop how to distribute the budgeted funds is inaccurate, leading the FCC to freeze the formula until January 2015. I will continue my work to address this issue.
I was also able to question the FCC commissioners about the upcoming spectrum auctions and strategies to make more spectrum available for commercial broadband use and to meet the demand of consumers. I am pleased to learn the FCC plans to move forward with an auction next year and is working to conduct a larger auction late next year or early in 2015. Past auctions have resulted in significant revenue for the federal government, substantial economic benefits including capital investment and jobs, and new and innovative services for consumers. I was also pleased to learn Chairwoman Clyburn planned to issue an order regarding call completion issues in rural areas in the coming days. I welcome this news to address an issue that affects business and public safety.
Finally, I was able to learn about the Commissioner’s recent initiative to modernize E-Rate for the 21st Century. Many Kansas schools and libraries rely on the E-Rate program, and I look forward to working with FCC to ensure the new E-Rate is more simple and effective. Click here to watch excerpts from the hearing.
A Call for Extension of CRP Haying and Grazing
Due to the ongoing drought, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) opened up CRP acres to allow cattle producers access to haying and grazing on July 16. The Kansas FSA State Committee used their authority with the D2 Severe drought designations on the U.S. Drought Monitor Map to authorize 66 counties for emergency haying and grazing. Since then we have seen some rain in Kansas but it wasn’t timely enough to allow producers to stockpile enough hay to get through the winter. On July 11, I sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack asking for him to do everything in his power to help producers, and a few days ago Senator Roberts and I sent a follow-up letter asking the Secretary to extend the deadline for grazing CRP to November 30, 2013. An extension will allow producers to graze more grass and conserve more resources for use this winter. If you have questions regarding eligibility or access, click here to contact your county FSA office. I am committed to making certain farmers and ranchers are provided with additional forage resources during this challenging time.
Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act
This week I joined Sen. John Cornyn in introducing the Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act – legislation to honor and support the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting. Our bill would designate the Fort Hood shooting a terrorist attack, which would make victims and their families eligible for benefits that have been previously withheld. For nearly four years, the victims of the tragic Fort Hood shooting have failed to receive the equal honor and respect they deserve because the attack took place on U.S. soil rather than in a designated combat zone such as Afghanistan.
In addition to current benefits inequity the Fort Hood victims, the Federal Government set a historic precedent when it awarded military victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with the Purple Heart medal, and civilian victims with the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom. Sen. Moran’s legislation states that the same precedent should be followed for the Fort Hood victims. Click here to learn more about our legislation to correct this injustice and provide much-deserved recognition and benefits to the Fort Hood shooting victims.
Visiting Pawnee Valley Community Hospital
I traveled to Larned to view the recently completed construction of the Pawnee Valley Community Hospital (PVCH) this weekend. The new 51,000 square foot facility sits on the site of the old St. Joseph Memorial Hospital which was built in the 1950s. The Larned community was faced with the potential closure of its hospital in 2009 until a partnership was established between Hays Medical Center and the City of Larned to keep its doors open. The efforts by the City of Larned are truly an example of a community standing together when faced with difficult circumstances.
PVCH is a Critical Access Hospital with 23 patient rooms, an emergency room, and an on-site helicopter pad for emergency transports. For Larned and communities like it, access to the types of health care services offered by PVCH is essential because access to hospitals and quality health care services determine whether Kansans can remain in the communities they call home, and whether their children can return to raise families of their own. The completion of the new PVCH facility is promising for the future of the Larned community, Pawnee County, and the surrounding area. Thanks to PVCH Administrator Matt Heyn for giving me a tour of the new facility, and congratulations on the official ribbon cutting on Sunday. Click here to see a photo.
This weekend, Jewish families in Kansas and around the world observed Yom Kippur. This Day of Atonement is among the year’s holiest days for Jewish people. I hope all who observed had a meaningful day.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
University of Kansas Graduate
Tanvi Nimkar of Lawrence
Chuck Yunker of Tecumseh
Livestock Marketing Association
Dan Harris of Holton
Frank Seidel of Lacrosse
Mark Mackey of Bucyrus
Lindsay Graber of Haven
American Cancer Society
Sue Jirkovsky Landess of Tecumseh
Jim Miksch of Prairie Village
Conley Cornell of Coffeyville
Meghan Urwin of Sublette
Reagan Cussimanio of Topeka
Jennifer Taylor of Topeka
American Academy of Dermatology
Frank Koranda of Shawnee Mission
Bob Durst of Topeka
Holly Fritch of Leawood
American College of Rheumatology
Kent Huston of Shawnee
Therese Humphrey of Derby
National Farmers Union
Kate Giessel of Larned
Nick Levendofsky of Republic
Dallon Bitz of Dickey
Rick Lindbloom of Salina
Luke Mahin of Courtland
Donn Teske of Wheaton
Mercedes Taylor-Puckett of McLouth
Dialysis Patient Citizens
Mike Guffey of Overland Park
Whitney Blake of Wichita
Kansas Municipal Utilities
Colin Hansen of McPherson
Mark Chesney of Wichita
Bob Poehling of Overland Park
KC STEM Alliance
Martha McCabe of Kansas City
Laura Loyacono of Kansas City
Heartland Homecare Service
Ed Johnson of Lawrence
Beth Simpson of Lawrence
Dale Jones of Council Grove
Kansas Optometric Association
Jason Eubank of Wichita
Chad Thompson of Beloit
Gary Robbins of Topeka
Aaryn McComb of Chanute
Brandi Erichson of Chapman
Lesser Prairie Chicken Coalition
Ken Klemm of Goodland
J.R. Carlson of Garden City
American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers
Fred Olsen of Manhattan
Kansas Animal Health Company
Ian Stinks of Shawnee Mission
Ralph Richardson of Manhattan
Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics
Randall O’Donnell of Leawood
Genny Nicholas of Kansas City
Dallas Polen of Overland Park
National Bison Association
Keith Yearout of Lake City
Eva Yearout of Lake City
American College of Nurse-Midwives
Ginger Breedlove of Shawnee
Jeff & Stephanie Haney of Derby
Luke & Cathy Herren of South Hutchinson
Diana and Nancy Deering of Osawatomie
Mercedes Taylor Puckett of McLouth
Luke Mahin of Courtland
Mercedes Taylor-Puckett of McLouth
Rick Lindbloom of Salina
Matt Ubel of Wheaton
Luke Mahin of Courtland
Doug Edmonds of Leawood
Pamela Vignatelli of Leawood
Kelly Nance of Topeka
Chuck Shoup of Eureka
Evy Shoup of Eureka
Beth Simpson of Lawrence
Hannah Harris of Lawrence
Patricia Simpson of Manhattan
Matthew Jolly of Prairie Village
Lori Jolly of Prairie Village
Keith Jolly of Louisburg
Connie Jo Jolly of Louisburg
Kurt Staggenborg of Marysville
Angela Staggenbord of Marysville
Jenna Staggenbord of Marysville
Trent Staggenbord of Marysville
Aleah Staggenbord of Marysville
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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