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.
Celebrating Easter and Passover
I hope you and your family had an enjoyable and meaningful Easter. I spent the day with family in Manhattan, where we joined the congregation of First Presbyterian Church.
Also this week, families and friends around the world gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. At the traditional Passover meal, the Seder, Jewish people recall the experience of Israelites in ancient Egypt and the Exodus lead by Moses. During this annual holiday, the story and lessons of the Exodus are passed from one generation to the next. I hope the Jewish community across Kansas had a very happy Passover.
Sponsoring the Veterans Transportation Service Bill
Veterans should be able to receive health services regardless of where they choose to live here in the United States. Recently, I sponsored Senator Tester of Montana’s Veterans Transportation Service Bill to make certain veterans — especially those who live in rural areas — have access to the quality health care they deserve. The bill provides funding for vehicles, mobility managers and transportation coordinators to help transport veterans to and from doctor’s appointments at VA Health Care Facilities. Currently, the VA Health Care Facilities in Topeka and Kansas City are benefiting from this program. Click here to read more about the new legislation.
U.N. Arms Trade Treaty Conference Concludes Without Resolution
On Thursday, the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) came to close. Once again, the Conference failed to reach consensus on the treaty text, with Iran, Syria, and North Korea ultimately objecting to the final draft. While the treaty text remains objectionable on Second Amendment grounds, what the veto from these countries demonstrates clearly is that negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty with dictatorships is misguided and dangerous. Nations like Iran, Syria, and North Korea, who abuse human rights and arm terrorists, have no intention of abiding by any such treaty, which therefore only serves to constrain the United States and other lawful democracies. The collapse of the ATT negotiations should be a wake-up call for the world’s democracies, which are put on par with dictatorships under the flawed treaty process at the United Nations.
Though delayed once again, the Arms Trade Treaty process will certainly move forward. Given majority support at last week’s conference, including that of the U.S. delegation, it is likely the treaty will be sent to the U.N. General Assembly in the coming weeks where it will be resurrected and receive a vote from the 193-nation body. As the process continues, I will redouble my efforts to make clear that any Arms Treaty that violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding firearms owners in America will not be accepted by the U.S. Senate. Click here to read more about the U.N. ATT.
Supporting Life-Saving Medical Research
Last Saturday, the Senate voted on a budget proposal for the first time in four years. Debating the budget presents an opportunity for Senators to advocate for initiatives they believe should be a priority for our government and country, which is why I offered a bipartisan amendment (#525) to the Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 8) advocating for increased funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the focal point of our nation’s medical research. The amendment, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, prioritizes support for biomedical research without adding a penny to the nation’s annual deficit.
Medical research supported by NIH has changed the lives of millions of Americans and has the potential to impact millions more — offering them hope for the future. Now is not the time to waiver on America’s commitment to advancing disease cures and treatments. Without consistent, strong support of NIH, our nation is at risk of jeopardizing patient treatment advancements, losing our position as a global medical research leader, and squandering the opportunity to drive economic growth and reduce health care costs. As Ranking Member on the Senate health appropriations subcommittee, I remain committed to working to support critical investment in our nation’s medical research infrastructure. Click here to watch my floor speech in support of this amendment.
Visiting the Kansas Academy for Mathematics and Science
On Friday morning, I had the opportunity to tour the Kansas Academy for Mathematics and Science (KAMS) at Fort Hays State University and visit with students and faculty. Each year, 40 high school juniors from around Kansas move in to a campus dorm, where they complete their last two years of high school coursework while also taking college math and science courses. The Kansas Legislature founded KAMS in 2006 to challenge the state’s most talented students, and it has been a great success.
It is vital that we raise a generation of innovators who have the math and science skills to solve the challenges we will face in the 21st century. While innovation and productivity have traditionally been the source of America’s success, the gap between the United States and the rest of the world is closing quickly. The European Union and a growing India and China are nipping at our heels. Realizing our full potential will be impossible without a highly educated and motivated workforce in the areas of science and math. I was incredibly impressed by these young minds, and hope more young Kansans will follow in their footsteps. Thanks to KAMS Director Ron Keller for hosting me and to all the students for their hard work and dedicated to the STEM fields. Click here to see a photo from my visit.
Need Remains to Pass Startup Act 3.0
This week, the Commerce Department revised its numbers for U.S. economic growth in the last three months of 2012, saying the economy expanded at an annual rate of just 0.4%. Although the recession is officially behind us, too many Americans still remain out of work and the economy continues to struggle. To jump-start economic growth and create American jobs, I reintroduced my bipartisan jobs bill, Startup Act 3.0, in February.
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 entrepreneurs can launch and grow new businesses.
One aspect of Startup Act 3.0 is the creation of a new visa for individuals legally residing in America but who are not yet citizens. These entrepreneurs would be allowed to stay in the United States and operate their business if they employ Americans. The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City estimates that this Entrepreneur Visa could create up to 1.6 million new American jobs over the next ten years. The economic impact of that level of job creation could, according to the Kauffman Foundation, bump up economic growth by an additional 1.6 percent — four times the amount the economy grew the final quarter of 2012. Click here to learn more about Startup Act 3.0.
Leveling the Playing Field for Main Street Businesses and Online Retailers
On Friday, March 22, the Senate considered hundreds of amendments to the Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal, S. Con. Res. 8, which ultimately passed by a 50-49 vote. Among these amendments was the Marketplace Fairness Act, which gives states the right to decide for themselves whether to collect — or not to collect — state sales and use taxes that are already owed by law. I voted in favor of this legislation, which is supported by conservative Governors across the country who seek to collect taxes already owed in order to reduce existing tax rates or avoid new taxes altogether.
Following a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, online sellers have not been required to collect sales tax in the same way that local brick-and-mortar businesses must. As the scope and influence of the Internet has grown exponentially in the last 20 years, the time to correct this tax loophole is long overdue. We should not be subsidizing some taxpayers at the expense of others, but thousands of local businesses across America are forced to do business at a competitive disadvantage against online sellers. This bill sets a significant exemption level to protect small businesses from any additional burdens — only companies with annual online sales greater than $1 million will be required to collect sales taxes in states that authorize this legislation.
The Marketplace Fairness Act does not tax Internet use, does not tax Internet services, and does not raise taxes. What it does is give states the right to collect what is already owed, if they so choose. As one of 24 states participating in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, Kansas is fully prepared to implement this law and give elected officials in Topeka the ability to collect taxes on remote sales, reduce tax rates, and grow the economy. It is time for the federal government to get out of the way and let states decide how they wish to proceed with the tax treatment of online sales compared to that of traditional main street businesses.
K-State Women’s Basketball in the WNIT Final Four
Saturday, Robba and I enjoyed cheering on the K-State Women’s Basketball Team against Illinois. Despite only having seven active players on their roster due to injuries, the Wildcats defeated the Fighting Illini 66 to 48. That win secures them a spot in the WNIT Final Four where they’ll take on the University of Utah. Congratulations to Coach Patterson and the team on a great season, and good luck on Wednesday! Click here to see a photo from the game.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
Kansas Secretary of Wildlife Robin Jennison of Topeka
McPherson Church of the Brethren
Jerry Bowen of McPherson
Devin Clark of Moundridge
Avery Goering of McPherson
Brooke Holloway of Moundridge
Sarah Vllom-Minnich of Moundridge
Rebecca Vllom-Minnich of Moundridge
DeShawn Pfeiff of Moundridge
Kansas TRIO Programs
Kristi Bolen of Emporia
Shanna Eggers of Emporia
Kaye Monk-Morgan of Wichita
Kathleen Greene Manhattan
Rebecca Dukstein of Roeland
Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc.
Bruce Graham of Topeka
Kansas Small Brewers Association
Steve Bradt of Lawrence
Seward County Community College
Steve Wiens of Meade
Susan Campbell of Liberal
DC Capitol Tour
David and Olga Silverman of Salina
Stephanie Silverman of Salina
Dan Rheingans of Russell
Kelli Williams of Russell
Preston Fowler of Russell
Angie Quillen of Russell
Megan Hendrich of Russell
Analise Romey of Russell
Sharon Davison of Overland Park
Allen Davison of Overland Park
Sheldon Stewart of Nickerson
Shaunda Stewart of Nickerson
Marissa Stewart of Nickerson
Braden Stewart of Nickerson
Glenda Newkirk of Manhattan
Lori Nordt of Manhattan
Linda Main of Salina
David Crow of Wichita
Mark and Robin Pratt of Overland Park
Lydia Pratt of Overland Park
Lauren Pratt of Overland Park
Mike Keller of Newton
Justin Keller of Manhattan
Anna Keller of Hesston
Shanna Eggers of Emporia
Sandii Ostmeyer of Quinter
Kasen Ostmeyer of Quinter
Peggy Golden of Oakley
Allen and Thumper Johnson of Wichita
Alexandra Johnson of Wichita
Paul Knox of Salina
Jeff Knox of Salina
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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