Kansas Common Sense
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Despite a great deal of unfinished work, the Senate has adjourned for election season and will not return until Tuesday, November 13, following Veteran’s Day. With the looming “fiscal cliff” of mandatory sequestration cuts and nearly $500 billion in tax increases set to strike the economy in January, it is woefully irresponsible for Congress to delay action until the so-called “lame duck” session following the November elections. This continued uncertainty generated by Washington only makes it harder for American businesses to hire new workers and families to plan for their future.
Before leaving town, the Senate held votes on a series of proposals Friday evening, including a six-month continuing resolution to fund the government through March 27, 2013. This legislation, H.J. Res 117, will maintain current spending levels as determined by the 2011 Budget Control Act, and punt the task of difficult budget decisions to the new Congress. I voted against this measure, as I believe the Senate should do its job by finishing our appropriations work in regular order, with the new fiscal year set to begin October 1. While the House of Representatives has passed six of 12 appropriations bills, we have yet to consider a single one on the Senate floor. Eighteen months ago Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid informed me that nothing would get done until after the elections, and it is awfully discouraging to see his words actually come to pass. This is not the kind of leadership Kansans expect or deserve from their elected officials in Washington.
Other bills considered by the Senate last week include S.J. Res 41, a resolution to reaffirm our interests in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, and S. 5357, Senator Rand Paul’s legislation to set restrictions on foreign aid. I supported the Iran Containment resolution, which passed 90-1, as well as Senator Paul’s bill which failed to pass the Senate. Countries that receive help from American taxpayers must defend our interests. With our country facing such enormous fiscal challenges, we cannot afford spending taxpayer dollars on anything that is neither effective nor makes America safer.
Over the next six weeks, I will be traveling throughout our great state, listening to Kansans and getting feedback on how I can better serve you in Washington.
Secretary Napolitano: Time is Now for NBAF
On Wednesday, I questioned U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on “Homeland Threats and Agency Responses.” I was encouraged to hear Secretary Napolitano confirm that the time is now to move forward with the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, KS. Secretary Napolitano reiterated the need for a bio level-4 facility in the United States, that the current Plum Island facility is inadequate, and that we need to move forward with the land transfer and Central Utility Plant (CUP). I was pleased to hear the Secretary agree, unequivocally, that NBAF is moving forward and the Department of Homeland Security will continue to partner with Kansas on this critical need for the Nation. Click here to see a photo.
House Introduces its Version of the MLP Parity Act
This week, Congressmen Ted Poe (TX-02) and Mike Thompson (CA-01) introduced the House version of the Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) Parity Act. Senator Coons and I introduced identical legislation in the Senate on June 7, 2012. The MLP Parity Act, S. 3275 and H.R. 6437, 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.
Master limited partnerships have been helpful in 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 colleagues along with my Congressional colleagues in the House on policies that will drive innovation, create American jobs, and grow our economy.
Military Commercial Driver’s License Act
This week, I joined U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in introducing the Military Commercial Driver’s License Act, which would streamline the process by which service members obtain Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs). Our bill would eliminate a current-law hurdle that only allows members of the military to obtain a license in their home state of record. Since many military personnel retain home states of record that differ from where they are actually stationed, it is difficult for them to apply training received at their military installation to getting CDL, a problem alleviated by this bill. Members of the military who have either entered civilian life or are currently stationed at McConnell Air Force Base, Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth and Forbes Field will benefit from this legislation.
The Drought Information Act of 2012
This past week I introduced legislation with Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides vital drought information to farmers, ranchers and other industries affected by weather conditions. Since the NIDIS Act was signed into law long-term plans for drought prevention, research and education have been developed. The Drought Information Act of 2012, would extend these programs until 2017. This year, as half of the continental United States faced the worst drought in nearly 70 years, timely drought information was a vital resource. All drought response and disaster declarations are based on the drought monitor, which is part of the NIDIS. Preserving these programs gives farmers and ranchers the best chance as they face the biggest challenge in agriculture – Mother Nature.
Kansas City Takes Another Step Toward Becoming ‘America’s Most Entrepreneurial City’
Kansas City took a big step forward this week in its effort to become “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.” The University of Missouri-Kansas City announced that is has received more than $2 million to create an incubator for technology businesses called the Digital Sandbox. The goal of the Digital Sandbox, which will be located in Kansas City’s Union Station, is to launch 10 startups that each generate $1 million in revenues within two years. This project will unite industry leaders and strong research institutions with entrepreneurs – putting the resources needed to start businesses squarely in the hands of talented individuals who can grow companies and create jobs.
Visiting with Midshipmen from Kansas at the U.S. Naval Academy
This week, I had the opportunity to visit the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and have lunch with several impressive Midshipmen from Kansas. These fine young men are Midshipman Second Class Anthony Pinto of Overland Park; Midshipman Fourth Class Tyler Germann of Leawood; Midshipman First Class Joel Tidd of Iola, and Midshipman First Class Travis Hyde of Overland Park. I was honored to spend time with these future leaders. Their courage, professionalism and commitment to the defense of our country are truly inspiring. I know the future of our Navy is in good hands. Click here to see a photo from my visit.
I am so proud of our Kansan Midshipmen, several of whom I had the privilege to nominate for acceptance to the U.S. Naval Academy. Making such nominations is one of my favorite dut ies as a Member of Congress. I am still accepting applications for appointment to the Naval Academy as well as our other Service Academies. To find out the requirements and apply, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by October 1, 2012.
Congratulating the Kansas Principals of the Year
On Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to congratulate Principal Mike Berblinger of Buhler High School and Principal Dale Brungardt of Ellsworth Junior Senior High on selected as Kansas’ high school and middle school Principals of the Year for 2012. Mike and Dale were selected for this recognition by their peers from across the state and the awards were presented by the Kansas Association for Secondary School Principals. Mike’s wife Sarah and Dale’s wife Beth were able to make the trip too.
They were in Washington this week for the MetLife/National Association of Secondary School Principals National Principal of the Year program, which honors exceptional middle level and high school principals. The annual program recognizes principals who have succeeded in providing a high-quality educational experience for their students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession. This event is also an excellent opportunity for honorees to network with other exceptional principals from across the country to share ideas and best practices.
Mike and Dale have a critically important role in ensuring that our children develop the skills necessary to be successful in life. The future competitiveness of our state and nation is directly linked to the quality of our children’s education, and I thank Mike and Dale for their dedication to Kansas students and their future. Click here to view a photo of our meeting.
Dropping in on Dr. Flinchbaugh's Ag Policy at K-State
On Monday, I made an unannounced, uninvited visit to Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh's Ag Policy class in Caldwell Hall at Kansas State. Professor Flinchbaugh is in his 41st year of teaching this class at K-State, and his students are fortunate to have such a dedicated individual in their lives. These students will be instrumental in helping determine the future of our state and its success in agriculture. Dr. Flinchbaugh is a highly regarded expert who has shaped farm policy over the years working with presidents, Congress and the USDA. Thank you to Barry for allowing me to intrude on his class one more time. Here is a picture from my visit.
Speaking to the Rotary Club of Cimarron
I spent the day Tuesday back in southwest Kansas meeting with folks in Gray, Haskell, Grant, Stevens and Morton Counties. I started the day having lunch with the Rotary Club of Cimarron at Richie’s Café. We discussed many issues on the minds of residents including the fiscal cliff our nation faces and the controversial school nutrition plan the USDA has put into place. It’s always good to be back Western Kansas and catch up with our community leaders. Thank you to John McLoughlin for inviting me to visit, and for everyone who attended including Cimarron superintendent Mike Waters. I enjoyed the opportunity to be back in Cimarron. Click here to see a photo.
Visiting Sublette High School
After the Rotary lunch, I stopped in Haskell County to visit Sublette High School. I had a great time meeting some of the students, teachers and staff and appreciate Principal Carlos Pena and Student Council President Jacob Gesling showing me around. During my visit, I stopped in on debate class to meet Mr. Zach Wimmer and his students. I am always optimistic about the future after visiting one of our schools in Kansas. The teachers, faulty, staff and students work hard to create bright futures for all. And especially in our smaller Kansas towns, the school serves as the town center for people. Click here to see a photo.
Touring the Morton County Hospital
From Sublette, I traveled to Elkhart where I toured the Morton County Hospital, a crucial provider of rural health care services to south west Kansas. The facility has 40 Acute Care, 2 Labor, 4 ICU, 2 Same Day Surgery, and 10 Geropsychiatric Beds as well as many dedicated medical professionals who work hard each day to deliver quality care to rural communities in our state. Their commitment helps preserve the special way of life we enjoy in rural America for the next generation. Thanks the hospital staff and board members for facilitating my visit. Click here to see a photo from my visit.
Discussing Economic Development in Hugoton
Following my tour of Morton County Hospital in Elkhart, I drove to Hugoton to stop by for a visit with Paul Kitzke and his law partner, Wayne Tate. Paul is Stevens County Attorney and Wayne is Hugoton City Attorney. I appreciated their invitation to come by their law practice, Tate & Kitzke LLC, to visit about economic development in Hugoton and Southwest Kansas, including construction of a new biomass renewable energy plant and a dairy and cheese processing plant. Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas is a project to build a plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol and renewable energy from biomass, a mixture of agricultural waste, non-feed energy crops, and wood waste. Expected to begin operations in June 2013, the plant will be located west of Hugoton and will create 65 jobs. The $20 million Kansas Dairy Ingredients plant will employ 60 people when it is completed. This plant is expected to process about 1 million pounds of milk per day, growing to 2.5 million pounds by the end of 2013. Click here to see a photo from my visit with Paul and Wayne.
Attending the Grant County Home Products Dinner
To finish my visit to southwest Kansas, I attended the Grant County Home Products Dinner in Ulysses. The Home Products Dinner has been an annual tradition since 1941, when state legislator Will Christian and his wife Nora invited 12 of Will’s colleagues over for a home-cooked meal to prove their land was some of the most bountiful in Kansas. The delicious tradition features foods grown in Grant County – from beef and cherry tomatoes to sweet corn, whole-wheat rolls and strawberry jam. I’ve been several times before and, as always, the meal was great and I enjoyed the chance to have several conversations with friends from across Southwest Kansas. Thanks to the people of Grant County for their hospitality. Click here to see a photo from the event.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below.
USACE Kansas City District
Jennifer Switzer of Leawood
Amy Blair of Leawood
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Trei Dubley of Lawrence
Laura Wagner of Lawrence
Joyce Glasscock of Manhattan
Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association
Ed Cross of Topeka
John Goodwin of Mission Hills
Greg Aldridge of Caldwell
Jim Ludwig of Wichita
Mark Schreiber of Topeka
Aerospace Industries Association
Deborah Gann of Wichita
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
Phillip Schneider of Lenexa
Michael Bennett of Lawrence
Brad Cook of Overland Park
Joanna Wakeman of Lawrence
United States Army
Lt. Col. John Moberly of Osborne
Overland Park Chamber of Commerce
Tracey Osborne of Overland Park
Larry Winn of Overland Park
Rick Worrell of Overland Park
University Fighting World Hunger
Rick McNary of El Dorado
Kansas Head Start Association
Linda Broyles of Arma
Kim Sill of Olathe
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
Alex Prosser of Overland Park
American Subcontractors Association
Vince Migliazzo of Prairie Village
McLeon, Watkinson & Miller
Joanna Robinson of Lawrence
Phil Schneider of Lenexa
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the US Capitol this week including:
Tom, Mary, and Matthew Bickimer
Julie & Megan Bickimer
Chad and Angela Miller
Kelly and Marilyn Jones
Jay and Lorraine Emler
Robert and Jenean Sears
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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