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.
This week, Kansans and Americans remember Nelson Mandela whose passing reminded us about his truly amazing life of struggle, triumph and achievement. His work and inspiring spirit shaped humanity for the better.
Kansas Listening Tour Continues in Jefferson and Jackson Counties
On Friday, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour in both Jefferson and Jackson Counties. In Jefferson County, I met with residents at Kendall State Bank to discuss the Farm Bill, community banking regulations and health care issues. Thank you to Gary Coleman for allowing me to use the Kendall State Bank facility. Also, thank you to Mayor Charlie Stutesman, Rep. Ramon Gonzalez and County Commissioner Richard Malm for attending.
Over the lunch hour, I spoke to the Holton Rotary Club and hosted my Jackson County Town Hall Meeting at St. Dominic Catholic Church Hall. Holton-area residents and I had another good conversation about the federal issues that concern Kansans most. Thanks to Rep. Richard Carlson and Mayor Bob Dieckmann for attending. Click here to see a photo.
Insisting on Accountability from Administration on Obamacare Costs
Last week, I reaffirmed my demand that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) be forthright with Americans about the true costs of implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance Exchange. More than six weeks have passed since I requested HHS to answer specific questions about the cost to taxpayers, but HHS has yet to respond to my questions. Click here to read my letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
On October 24, I asked the Department for a specific accounting of the funds spent on the federal Exchange established by the ACA. Incredibly, six weeks have passed without any answers. This silence is unacceptable. The Department must be accountable for its use of taxpayer funds – especially when these funds have and continue to be spent without the consent of the Congress’ appropriations committees. It is extremely important that Americans have a full understanding of the costs associated with implementing the federal Exchange, addressing the technical “glitches” that have plagued the system for months, and the cost effects of the numerous delays relating to the ACA’s implementation.
I am committed to making certain the Administration is held accountable for its use of taxpayer dollars, especially considering the systemic problems plaguing the ACA website. In addition to demanding answers from HHS, last week I requested a hearing in the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee – I am Ranking Member of this subcommittee – to examine the true cost of implementing the ACA. It is imperative that we hold this hearing so we can get a clear understanding of the costs of this law now and into the future.
Fourth Anniversary of Alan Gross’ Arrest in Cuba
Last week marked the fourth anniversary of Alan Gross’s arrest in Cuba. For four years, Alan, an American citizen, has been unjustly detained and punished for seeking to help a small, peaceful, non-dissident Jewish community access the Internet. I have not yet had the privilege to meet Alan, but I know his wife Judy, and my heart is filled with sadness knowing the pain Judy, Alan and their family have endured these past four years.While their suffering continues, they are not alone in their fight for family and for justice. The United States Senate has made clear its wish that Alan be immediately released and allowed to return home to the United States. Last week I reiterated this call on President Obama, asking him to do everything he can to deliver Alan from his state of detention in Cuba. It’s well past time for Alan to return to the United States. Let us not tire in our efforts until that day when Alan is free and his family is reunited.
Visiting Shawnee Mission West High School
On Tuesday morning, I visited Shawnee Mission West High School. This year, Shawnee Mission West was included on Newsweek’s list of America’s Best High Schools. The list includes 2,000 public high schools throughout the nation that have proven most effective in producing college-ready graduates. The Shawnee Mission School District offers “Signature Programs” which provide high school students the opportunity to experience various areas of study in preparation for specialized college and career paths. The Biotechnology Signature Program supports students in the development of research skills they may use in future scientific careers. This is a great example of how the Kansas education system can support sustained growth of the Kansas bioscience industry by producing highly-skilled graduates ready for the workforce.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations education subcommittee, which has authority over the budget of the U.S. Department of Education, my visits to Kansas schools help me to evaluate how its initiatives serve students in Kansas and across the country. Kansans understand that, in order to be successful, schools needs students who want to learn, dedicated teachers who are committed to helping each student reach their potential, administrators who are goal-oriented, and supportive parents and community members who reinforce the concepts and expectations taught at school. It is clear to me that good things are happening at Shawnee Mission West. Thanks to Principal Dr. Julie Crain, Junior Grace Yialouris and Senior Alex Rowe for leading my tour and hosting my visit. Click here to see a photo.
Kansas Farm Bureau Luncheon
It was great to be with Kansas Farm Bureau in Manhattan at their annual conference. Many issues facing agriculture were discussed, but of course passing a Farm Bill was front and center. It is time to give farmers, ranchers and consumers the certainty they deserve and get this important legislation passed. As I return to Washington this week, I will continue to advocate for the immediate passage of the Farm Bill. Thanks to Kansas Farm Bureau for inviting me to speak.
Hays Medical Center Tour
This week, I also had the opportunity to tour Hays Medical Center. HaysMed is a not-for-profit, 207-bed hospital formed by the 1991 merger of two facilities, and is the sole provider in the region for many specialized care services. The hospital provides medical, surgical and pediatric care along with cardiac, neonatal and intensive care units; cancer, joint and spine care, diagnostic imaging and eye surgery center; emergency department, rehabilitation, hospice and lifeline. The ability of our health care providers to meet the needs of patients is greatly affected by decisions in Washington, D.C. I will continue to make certain I understand the real consequences of these decisions through conversations with Kansas health care providers.
Under the leadership of HaysMed President and CEO Dr. John Jeter and his administrative team as well as generosity of individuals and businesses, the hospital has undergone several renovations and expansions projects. During my visit, I had the opportunity to tour some of their newest additions including the Bickle Family Tower, the Breast Care Center, the Women’s Center and the Dreiling/Schmidt Cancer Institute. The new Breast Care Center enables patients to receive comprehensive breast care at one location. There I was shown the Selenia Dimensions Tomography Unit. HaysMed is the second medical center in Kansas to have this latest technology in mammography. The state-of-the-art technology produces a three dimensional image of the breast and improves cancer screening and detection by 30 percent.
I am impressed with all the changes HaysMed has made to better serve patients and enhance quality of care. Thank you to Dr. Jeter, Dale Montgomery, and Terry Siek for their hospitality during my visit. Click here to see a photo. Click here to read a Hays Daily News story about my visit.
Kansans in the Office
Vickie Hawver of Topeka
Martin Hawver of Topeka
U.S. Custom Harvesters
Taff Hughes of Ellinwood
Amerigroup Kansas, Inc.
Laura Hopkins of Overland Park
Gary Haulmark of Prairie Village
National Association of State Foresters
Larry Biles of Manhattan
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka
Black and Veatch
Paul Weida of Overland Park
Kansas Hospital Association
Kevin Miller of Hutchinson
Chad Austin of Topeka
D.C. Capitol Tour
Gerri Scheid of Dodge City
Brelain Finan of Osage City
Aidan Finan of Osage
M. Elizabeth Scheid of Osage City
Bishop Scott Jones of Wichita
Mary Lou Reece of Wichita
Jerome Dreiling of Hays
Steve Stremel of LaCrosse
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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