Kansas Common Sense
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This week, the Senate was out of session so senators could work back in their states, so I spent the week in Kansas attending several events across the state – groundbreaking ceremonies, open houses and annual meetings. I always appreciate the opportunity to be back in the state for a longer period of time and enjoyed my conversations with Kansans.
Joining Learjet Groundbreaking Ceremony
On Monday morning, I joined the vice president and general manager of Bombardier Learjet Ralph Acs, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, Kansas Secretary of Commerce Pat George, and Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Tim Norton, in a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the expansion of its Wichita site. The $52.7 million project will make room for the company’s newest business jet, the Learjet 85, and is expected to add 450 jobs. The expansion, which is the largest in Learjet’s history in Wichita, reaffirms the company’s support for Wichita’s well-known status as “Air Capital of the World.” Development of the Bombardier Flight Test Center, the establishment of a Centers of Excellence for Engineering and Information Technology, new facilities for paint and production flight testing and a new delivery center and parking lot are all good news for our state and will provide a brighter future for Kansas workers and their families.
The future of aviation is also bright because of the highly skilled workforce provided by the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) and the cutting-edge research conducted by the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University (WSU). I am grateful for the loyalty Bombardier Learjet has shown our state and know they will be well served by the hard work and excellence given daily by dedicated Kansans. Click here to view a photo from the visit.
New York Life Insurance Company
While I was in Wichita, I also visited with New York Life Insurance agents at the company’s state headquarters. Established in Kansas in 1859, New York Life now provides more than $6.3 billion in life insurance protection and serves more than 54,000 Kansans. During my visit, we discussed a range of issues, including our nation’s out of control spending and debt, the need to reform the Dodd-Frank Act and the unintended consequences of President Obama’s healthcare reform law. Thank you to Managing Partner Joe Tigert, his wife, Sheila, and the entire New York Life team for their hospitality. I especially enjoyed seeing Jim Pfanenstiel, my longtime agent and friend from Hays.
Speaking to the Kansas Municipal Utilities
On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to the Kansas Municipal Utilities (KMU), the statewide association of municipally-owned and -operated electric, gas, water, wastewater, storm water, and telecommunications utilities across the state during their conference in Wichita. These utilities providers are scattered across Kansas and serve populations of all sizes. A flurry of new regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had a significant impact on municipal utilities, more so than their larger Kansas counterparts. Serving smaller, more rural populations, municipal utilities are at a disadvantage when seeking to comply with these regulations given the EPA’s short deadlines.
Rules like the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants on Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE/NESHAP), force electric utilities to raise rates in an effort to fast-track their ongoing emissions reductions projects. It is unfair to jeopardize energy availability for municipal utilities customers because of unreasonable compliance deadlines. I have introduced legislation, S. 1702 and S. 2300, along with Senator Roberts, to allow utilities to continue to serve their customers while completing their emissions reductions efforts. Thanks to Colin Hansen and the KMU membership for inviting me to visit with them. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Welcoming New President of Wichita State University
This week, I had the pleasure of spending time with the incoming president of Wichita State University (WSU), Dr. John Bardo, who will become the 13th president of WSU on July 1. Most recently, Dr. Bardo served as the chancellor of Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, in North Carolina from 1995-2011 and in 2011, he returned to the classroom as a professor of education. But he began his career at WSU when he was the graduate coordinator of the Master of Urban Studies program from 1976-1977.
On Monday, I met Dr. Bardo during the Learject groundbreaking ceremony and had a great conversation with him about his commitment to maintaining WSU’s position as the nation’s premier aviation research institution. On Friday, I joined him and Dr. Pendse at the 57th annual WSU College of Engineering Open House to view design projects displayed by senior engineering students. Not only was I impressed with the talent and dedication of the students and professors, but I can see why WSU has been a cornerstone of the aerospace and high-tech industries in Wichita for years. I was pleased to learn of Dr. Bardo’s commitment to build on WSU’s reputation and strengthen the development of cutting-edge research at WSU’s Advanced Networking Research Institute and Cisco Center. He is also interested in expanding entrepreneurship coursework and programs at WSU so the next generation is better equipped to create and successfully manage their own businesses.
I look forward to working with Dr. Bardo in the years to come and I thank outgoing President Dr. Don Beggs for his more than a decade of service and commitment to WSU. I wish him all the best in his upcoming retirement. Click here to view a photo.
Attending Hutchinson Prayer Breakfast
On Thursday, our nation observed the 61st annual National Day of Prayer - a day set aside to pray for our country and reflect on the importance of prayer. On that day, I joined the residents of Hutchinson at their annual prayer breakfast to pray for wisdom for our nation’s leaders as we address the many challenges facing America. The community’s focus on faith was an encouraging reminder of what is truly important in life – faith, family and making a difference in our world, one soul at a time.
As a public official, Kansans often tell me they are praying for me. It’s very humbling to know they remember me in their prayers and it’s encouraging to know that so many Americans are praying for our country and its future. Thanks to the many leaders of the local faith-based community for their inspiring words of prayer and to my friend and breakfast emcee Tom Elliott for the kind invitation to attend. A special thank you to Robert Calhoun for his beautiful vocal solo and to Dorothy Mosier for organizing the event. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Rubbermaid Groundbreaking Ceremony
Newell Rubbermaid is a leader in developing innovative, high-quality home goods, whose products can be found in 90 percent of American homes today. On Thursday, I had the pleasure of participating in a groundbreaking ceremony for their plant expansion in Winfield with several local, state and federal officials. The Winfield site employs 700 people and with this expansion, they will soon be adding 200 employees to the workforce.
Rubbermaid’s investment in Kansas and the Winfield community extends back nearly 100 years. This new expansion is further evidence of their long-term commitment and will be a great economic boost for Cowley County. I commend the county and city officials for successfully creating jobs for Kansans, and I applaud the Winfield employees for their hard work to ensure the company continues to succeed and expand. Thank you to all the Rubbermaid executives for welcoming me: CEO Michael Polk, Penny McIntire, Jeff Hohler and Winfield Director of Operations Michael Grant. Click here to view a photo.
Attending Retirement Ceremony for Tom Sanders at Dole Medical Center
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend the retirement reception for Tom Sanders, who is retiring as Director of the VA’s Robert J. Dole Medical Center in Wichita. Mr. Sanders has worked for the VA since 1982, and came to Wichita in 2002. Since then, I have worked closely with him and found him to be a dedicated professional who worked hard for the veterans he was serving. I enjoyed joining so many local residents in thanking him for his long-time service. While I am sad to see him retire, I am pleased to hear of his plans to remain in Wichita and stay busy volunteering on behalf of veterans. As a new chapter begins at the Dole Medical Center, I look forward to continuing to work with his successor and so many others there who serve our nation’s heroes. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Wichita State University Engineering Open House
On Friday morning, I attended the 57th annual Wichita State University (WSU) College of Engineering Open House with incoming WSU President Dr. John Bardo, and Dr. Pendse, Chief Information Officer and Executive Director of Advanced Networking Research Institute (ANRI). The Open House is a wonderful opportunity for the community to see the cutting-edge research and design projects showcased by senior engineering students.
In addition to visiting with students about their projects, I had the chance to tour the Advanced Networking Research Institute and the Cisco Technical Research Center. These centers are greatly contributing to the field of computer networking by engaging in state-of-the-art theoretical and experimental research.
Throughout the Open House I was reminded why it is so important to encourage and retain these talented students. The Department of Commerce projects jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to grow by 17 percent in the years ahead. Our economy needs more of these highly-skilled and talented individuals in the United States. Their presence will help businesses grow and many of them will become entrepreneurs who will one day start their own companies and create jobs for accountants, marketers, attorneys and designers.
Thanks to Dr. Bardo and Dr. Pendse for showing me around the campus, the WSU College of Engineering for putting on this great event, and the students for their time and hard work. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Visiting Hesston High School
On Monday I visited Hesston High School (HHS) to speak with students and tour the campus. Hesston Principal Larry Thompson was recently recognized as the Kansas Association of Secondary Principals’ 2011 Principal of the Year. During our visit, Principal Thompson took me by The Pit Stop, which is a lunch and snack shop run by students in Ms. Denise Goevert’s business classes. I enjoyed visiting with students to hear what they are learning as they manage their own business. I commend HHS for encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit in their students by developing this model of business within their school. Thanks to Principal Thompson for taking the time to show me around and thanks to all the students and staff for their warm welcome. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Attending Knights of Columbus Annual Meeting
On Sunday, I attended the Knights of Columbus Kansas State Council Chaplain’s dinner and annual meeting in Topeka. The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney, in New Haven, Connecticut. Today, more than a century later, the Knights of Columbus has become the largest lay organization in the Catholic Church. The Knights of Columbus (KOC) organization in Kansas does great things to serve our state and live out their mission of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. The KOC councils raises and distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars for many causes, all of which help enhance the lives of thousands of Kansans in need.
Thanks to State Deputy Mark Roth and my good friend Tom Dechant for inviting me to attend. Additionally, thanks to all the members, priests and bishops who welcomed me. Click here to see a photo from the event.
Wichita Area Builders Association Meeting
On Thursday afternoon, I visited with members of the Wichita Area Builders Association (WABA), Kansas’ largest building industry trade group with more than 1,300 members. During the meeting, I was reminded that federal regulatory overreach on labor, environment, banking and housing issues, among others, has real world effects. Those effects have been particularly acute in Sedgwick County, where the percentage of new home sales as part of total home sales has dropped from 18 to 6 percent over the last six years.
I will continue my efforts in Washington to reduce the regulatory environment and simplify the tax structure so all industries, including the building industry, can once again grow and create jobs. Thanks to WABA Chair Carl Harris and President Wess Galyon for organizing such an informative and useful meeting.
Remembering Charlie Walker
The Walker family and the city of Salina lost someone special when Charlie Walker passed away on April 27th. Charlie was a Salina businessman and philanthropist and lived out what many would call the “American Dream.” Yet his success as an entrepreneur and businessman never changed his character. Charlie was someone who always looked for ways to serve his family, neighbors and community. In 1999, Charlie opened the Rolling Hills Zoo, now called the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure, which attracts more than 150,000 visitors a year to the Salina area. In 2005, Charlie was inducted into the Salina Business Hall of Fame to recognize his accomplishments in the local community.
On Tuesday, hundreds gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in Salina to remember Charlie and to thank his family for the impact he made in their lives. I had the honor of attending this ceremony and knew Charlie to be a man of humility and integrity. Robba and I extend our deepest sympathies to his family and will keep them in our prayers.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Joyce Martin of Topeka
Marlou Wegener of Topeka
Stacey Mann of Wichita
Yvonne Crowe of Kansas City
University of Kansas
Jack Cline of Lawrence
Kansas State Society of Anesthesiologists
Mark Brady of Shawnee Mission
Tammi Schaper of Overland Park
National Association of Secondary School Principals
G.A. Buie of Eudora
Kansas National Education Association
Bob Thesman of Overland Park
Kimberly Howard of Wichita
Karen Godfrey of Topeka
Association of Advanced Life Underwriting
Tom Ruean of Overland Park
Joe Jones of Lawrence
Kansas Interfaith Power and Light
Rabbi Moti Rieber of Overland Park
Vivian Gibbons of Mission
Catherine Moyer of Ulysses
Bob Nattier of Moundridge
Ron Rahjes of Kensington
Bob Wietharn of Clay Center
Patricia Pomeroy of Belle Plaine
Ron Pomeroy of Belle Plaine
Eric Jensen of Coffeyville
Kraig Vondran of Manhattan
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including:
Larry Shirley of Shawnee
Donna Shirley of Shawnee
Daniel Cook of Shawnee
Jamie Anderson of Shawnee
Christina Zawicki of Olathe
Micahel Grein of Olathe
Eileen Perry of Lenexa
Steve Tritsch of Lenexa
Melissa Tritsch of Lenexa
Liam Ross of Overland Park
Todd Fritz of Overland Park
Samuel Fritz of Overland Park
Luke Schlitter of Overland Park
Philip Johnson of Overland Park
Kaelin Key of Overland Park
Dale Gibson of Partridge
Martha Smith of Partridge
Rick Koenigsman of Tipton
Darla Koenigsman of Tipton
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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