Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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. Last week, I learned of the tragic airplane crash that claimed the lives of Glenn and Elaine Mull, their daughter Amy Harter and granddaughter Samantha Harter. Glenn was piloting his company’s Gulfstream 690C as the family was traveling to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Trade Show in Nashville, when the plane crashed during a landing attempt. My heart goes out to the entire Mull family during this difficult time. Both Glenn and Elaine were well-known for their generous spirit and commitment to improving Pawnee County and the state of Kansas. I ask everyone to join me in keeping their family and friends in our thoughts and prayers during the days ahead.
2014 Farm Bill Signed into Law
On Friday, President Obama signed the Farm Bill into law after passage by the U.S. Senate last week. While it is not perfect, the bill reduces farm program and food stamp spending by $16.6 billion and provides agriculture producers with the long-term certainty they need to produce food, fiber and fuel for our country and the world. The Farm Bill also provides Kansas farmers and ranchers with the strong, stable crop insurance and disaster programs they need when facing Mother Nature. Ultimately, consumers are best served when farmers and ranchers know the rules of the game and have the support they need to continue work in one of the most high-risk professions – agriculture.
Also last week, I asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for immediate implementation of the livestock disaster programs reauthorized in the Farm Bill. In 2012, U.S. livestock producers experienced the most devastating loss of pasture, rangeland and forage in decades due to the widespread drought, which resulted in more than 80 percent of all U.S. counties determined as “abnormally” to “exceptionally” dry by the U.S. Drought Monitor. I will continue to work to get this Farm Bill implemented as effectively and quickly as possible. Click here to read the letter.
When it comes to regulatory reforms, there is still considerable work to be done. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee I plan to keep Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) front and center this year. I am committed to working to complete the work still needed on these issues, and build on the Farm Bill’s provisions to help make certain the United States remains the most food secure country in the world.
Obamacare is Dragging Down the Economy
Federal policies should promote job creation and economic growth, not create economic conditions that facilitate layoffs and reduce working hours for Americans. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its latest budget outlook and analysis of the American economy. CBO is the nonpartisan government agency that crunches the numbers, evaluates the impact of legislation, and advises Congress on fiscal matters. The agency’s latest estimates indicate that the Affordable Care Act is causing even more damage to our economy than previous analyses forecasted. While this news comes as a shock to some, I am not surprised by this data. Well before the new health care law was voted on in Congress, I argued that this plan was fundamentally flawed and would do significant harm to the American economy.
The CBO report tells us that the negative impact on the labor market and economic growth is real and substantially larger than initially predicted. CBO analysis finds that Obamacare will effectively reduce our nation’s full-time workforce by around 2.3 million workers through 2021. The agency increased its estimate on the number of work hours lost due to the Affordable Care Act – in fact, CBO tripled this projection compared to its previous estimate. These work hours will be lost by businesses reducing jobs and by individuals dropping out of the labor forces or not working as much.
It is bad policy to impose new tax burdens that increase the cost of health care and restrict economic growth. This is especially true at a time when many Americans are already working so hard to survive in a tough economy. It is well past time for the President, his Administration, and congressional Democrats to face the facts. This law is unworkable and is proving to be harmful to the very people it aimed to help. Congress needs to start over and replace this broken law with targeted reforms that will actually reduce costs and improve access in a manner that does not undermine the American economy in the process. Click here to read more about this CBO report.
Preventing Implementation of U.N. Arms Trade Treaty
This week, I wrote a column for Breitbart.com on the action Congress recently took to make certain the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty will not be implemented without ratification. The House and Senate passed language in the Omnibus Bill stating, “None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be obligated or expended to implement the Arms Trade Treaty until the Senate approves a resolution of ratification for the Treaty.”
Throughout this process, it has been disturbing to watch the Administration reverse U.S. policies, abandon its own negotiation principles, admit publicly the treaty’s dangerous ambiguity, and hastily review the final treaty text. Congress has now made it unequivocally clear that we are committed to upholding the fundamental individual rights of Americans and reject the U.N. ATT. We will not fund the treaty or any part of its implementation. Click here to read my column.
This past December, I sponsored legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the “Monuments Men,” a group of approximately 350 men and women from 13 countries who are credited with preserving, protecting and restoring millions of pieces of artwork, sculptures and other cultural artifacts in Europe during World War II. The movie release of The Monuments Men on Friday profiles their stories and missions to protect structures — such as churches, museums and monuments — from destruction of war. These brave men and women are unsung heroes of World War II.
Kansas’ own President Dwight D. Eisenhower supported these efforts by ordering his commanders to safeguard the treasures because “inevitably, in the path of our advance will be found historical monuments and cultural centers which symbolize to the world all that we are fighting to preserve.” Click here to learn more.
Visiting Smith County Memorial Hospital in Smith Center
On Friday, I was in Smith Center to visit Smith County Memorial Hospital (SCMH). SCMH is a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital with an attached 28-bed long-term care unit. The hospital also operates a rural health clinic, providing patients access to primary care services in Smith Center. SCMH has been serving Smith County and the surrounding area since 1951. As a member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, it is very useful for me to visit Kansas hospitals and talk with health care providers to learn more about how they utilize resources to care for patients, many of which are spread across large areas.
During my visit, we discussed the importance of SCMH and other rural hospitals to the survival and success of many Kansas communities. We visited about concerns with Medicare regulations requiring physician supervision of certain outpatient therapy services, as well as unnecessarily burdensome and flawed Medicare audit regulations. Too often, federal policies fail to take into account the realities of delivering health care in small, rural hospitals. It is important that the federal government understand the impact of these rules and regulations on the financial well-being of Kansas hospitals, and the potential they have for significantly disrupting patients access to important health care services. CAHs and other rural hospitals make up a significant component of our state’s health care delivery system and are also one of the largest employers in their towns. Any policies that threaten the survival of these hospitals endanger Kansans’ access to health care in their own communities and could severely ration care in rural America. Thanks to SCMH CEO Allen Van Driel for hosting my visit. Click here to see a photo.
Wichita and Salina Chamber Meetings
When I was back in Kansas, I was pleased to be able to be in both Wichita and Salina for their chamber meetings.
In Wichita, it was the 2014 Chairman’s Luncheon, an annual opportunity for city, county and chamber of commerce leaders to discuss the state of the community including how to encourage job creation in Wichita and Sedgwick County. I appreciated hearing from Mayor Carl Brewer, Sedgwick County Commission Chair Dave Unruh and Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce Chair Wayne Chambers. Thanks to the event sponsors including presenting host Grant Thornton, LLP, which was represented by managing partner Lori Davis (pictured with me below).
At the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce Annual banquet, we heard from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who currently hosts a Fox News Channel talk show, Huckabee. Governor Huckabee believes America’s best days lie ahead and talked about the challenges small businesses face due to government regulations and taxes. Salina businessmen and women shared the story of their community in 2013. I appreciated Dennis Lauver and Don Weiser’s invitation to attend. Thanks to outgoing Chairman of the Board Clark Renfro and best wishes to incoming Chairman Dale Heuszel.
Jewell and Phillips County Listening Tour Stops
On Friday, I held Kansas Listening Tour stops in Jewell and Phillips Counties. In Randall, the conversation centered around the Farm Bill; in Agra, we discussed the Affordable Care Act. I appreciated Kansans passing along a good dose of Kansas Common Sense. Thanks to Fawna Barrett and Jeanette Stevens for helping to coordinate the stops.
Kansans in the Office
President Patricia Long of Baldwin City
Mary Larson Diaz of Leawood
Kansas National Education Association
Bob Thesman of Overland Park
Kimberly Howard of Wichita
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
Kristy Soloski of Manhattan
Una Henry of Manhattan
Jonathan Kimmes of Manhattan
Nikita Casanova of Leavenworth
Erika Smith of Manhattan
Kansas Association of School Boards
Tom Krebs of Topeka
Dennis Depew of Neodesha
Frank Henderson of Topeka
Rod Stewart of Washington
Don Shimkus of Oxford
Judy Lair of Piqua
Dayna Miller of Basehor
Gina McGowan of Ellsworth
Keith Becker of Galva
Diane Gyerstad of Wichita
Amy Martin of Olathe
Delta Sigma Theta
Sue E. Wilson of Gardner
Kansas Independent College Association and Fund
President Noreen Carrocci of Newman University in Wichita
President TJ Arant of Friends University in Wichita
President Hal Hoxie of Central Christian College of Kansas in McPherson
Matt Lindsey of Topeka
The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers
Nancy Mellard of Leawood
Ryan Wilkerson of Mission Hills
Kansas State University
President Kirk Schultz of Manhattan
Ron Trewyn of Manhattan
Sue Peterson of Manhattan
Garden City Police Department
Michael Utz of Garden City
National Rural Health Association’s Rural Health Policy Institute
Chad Austin of Topeka
Tom Bell of Topeka
Jeff Ellis of Overland Park
Joshua Gaede of Kansas City
Dr. Michael Kennedy of Kansas City
Kurtis Klecan of Kansas City
Roger Masse of Ellsworth
Martha Ross of Overland Park
Jodi Schmidt of Parsons
Mac Shipley of Mission
Allen Van Driel of Smith Center
Kelly Zachariasen of Kansas City
Karen Johnson of Leawood
Al Hinman of Olathe
Amanda Hinman of Olathe
Tracy Hinman of Olathe
Nick Hinman of Olathe
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America
Sue Matson of Olathe
Megan Clark of Olathe
Ashlee Gann of Marion County
Tyler Mermis of Marion
Mark Felvus of Marion
Jo Olsen of Linolnville
Duane McCarty of Marion
Reno County Communities That Care Coalition
Danna Gordon of Wichita
Rebecca Upshaw of Garden City
Connie Watkins of Kinsley
Jennifer Godfrey of Meade
National Sorghum Producers
Kassie Curran of Farlington
Larry Dahlsten of Lindsborg
Earl Roemer of Healy
U.S. Custom Harvesters
Jim Deibert of Colby
Roger Sewell of Pratt
Jan Merz of Pratt
Stuart Briggeman of Pratt
Teri Briggeman of Pratt
Kent Goyen of Pratt
Deb Goyen of Pratt
Jeff & Joann Moszeter of Hoyt
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,
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.