Kansas Common Sense


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Remove VA Employees Responsible for Misconduct
This week, I requested that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary Bob McDonald call for immediate action to remove the VA employees who were found to have abused their positions, mistreated their coworkers, and disrespected veterans and their families. With the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act this summer, Congress empowered the VA Secretary with the ability to more readily terminate employees for poor performance and misconduct. Yet, more than a month since the President signed the bill into law on August 7, the Department has yet to use its authority to fire senior officials and administrators for poor performance and unethical conduct. I believe Americans expect and deserve immediate action from the VA to demonstrate the culture and expectations at the Department are changing. Click here to read my full latter to VA Sec. McDonald calling for action.

A call for accountability at the VA also came last week from the National Commander of the American Legion, Michael D. Helm of Norcatur, in a separate letter to President Obama on September 18, which called for corrupt managers within the agency to be “fired immediately.” Commander Helm writes, “The only way those culpable will get their just desserts, and credibility will be restored to the thousands of VA employees who really deserve it, is for you to demand that those who caused this scandal, and those who oversaw it and did nothing, be fired and removed from government.” Newly-elected National Commander Helm is a U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran was elected to represent the legion as national commander on August 28. Commander Helm is touring American Legion posts throughout Kansas and across the nation. He recently completed more than 15 visits in Kansas and visited with veterans about issues ranging from VA health care to national security. Click here to read the full letter from the American Legion National Commander to President Obama.

K-State Ag Policy Class
Last week, I made a surprise visit to Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh’s agriculture policy class at Kansas State University. This is my third surprise visit since my time as a U.S. Senator. Dr. Flinchbaugh has served on numerous national boards and commissions and is a leading authority in agriculture policy. He has assisted in the development of every farm bill since 1968, working closely with policy makers on Capitol Hill. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with his students about the role of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as my role as a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Thanks to Dr. Flinchbaugh and his class for allowing me to stop by. Click here to read more about our exchange in the Manhattan Mercury.

Riley County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting
It was great to be with Riley County Kansas Farm Bureau in Manhattan at their annual county meeting. I visited with more than 100-area Farm Bureau members about a number of issues facing the agriculture industry including the Lesser Prairie Chicken, EPA regulations and the rural way of life in Kansas. I appreciate their organization for supporting the future of agriculture in our state and across the country. Thanks to Terry Holdren for inviting me to speak.

Touring the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan
This week, I got a behind the scenes tour of the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan thanks to Director Scott Shoemaker who invited me months ago to stop by. The Sunset Zoo was founded in 1933 by the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Board. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which means the zoo meets high standards for animal care, conservation and education. Sunset Zoo is generously supported by the Friends of Sunset Zoo and the Sunset Zoological Park & Wildlife Conservation Trust, as well as private Manhattan citizens. On the federal level, zoos are eligible for grants through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). I am Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over funding for IMLS. My daughter Alex—a third-year veterinary medicine student at Kansas State University—joined me on the tour. We both learned more about the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) within USDA that monitors the treatment of zoo animals to ensure they are properly cared for. Thanks to Scott Shoemaker for hosting our visit.

Visiting Kansas High School Government Classes
Sacred Heart Jr.-Sr. High School

On Wednesday I stopped in Salina to visit with students at Sacred Heart High School. During my visit, I met with students in John Hamilton’s two American Government classes. Our discussion covered several different topics including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, concerns about ongoing conflict in the Middle East, opportunities for higher education, and the economy. We also visited about the importance of young Kansans having opportunities to pursue fulfilling careers in our state after they graduate from school. I was impressed with the students’ questions and their interest in the future of our country. Thanks to Sacred Heart Principal John Krajicek and Mr. Hamilton for hosting my visit.

Hays High School
On Thursday morning, I was in Hays and had the opportunity to speak with students enrolled in the Current Issues and American Government Classes at Hays High School. I appreciated the students’ questions on a variety of topics including differences between the House and Senate, what committees I serve on, the federal government’s role in education and how our Administration is handling ISIS. It was great to be back at Hays High and visit with students, faculty and staff. Thanks to Principal Marty Straub and teachers Zachary Butte and Kelly Ackerman for the invitation to speak to these bright students. Click here to read a story in the Hays Daily News about my visit.

Nemaha Valley Community Hospital
I was in Seneca on Tuesday to visit and tour Nemaha Valley Community Hospital & Seneca Family Practice (NVCH). NVCH is a Critical Access Hospital serving patients in Nemaha County, and portions of Marshall, Pottawatomie, Jackson and Brown counties. The hospital provides a wide-range of services including 24-hour emergency care, outpatient and inpatient surgical services, diagnostic laboratory services, and a variety of medical imaging services. NVCH also provides a range of therapy services including physical therapy, respiratory therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and cardiopulmonary rehab. Throughout my time representing Kansans in Washington, D.C., I have had the opportunity to visit each of our state’s 128 community hospitals. As Ranking Member of Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for most agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators and other health providers gives me insight on the unique challenges they face caring for diverse groups of patients across wide areas.

During my visit with NVCH administrators and staff, we discussed various topics including the impact of the Affordable Care Act and other federal policies on rural hospitals, including the unreasonable and inflexible physician supervision rules for outpatient therapy services. When federal policies fail to take into account the realities of providing care in rural communities, we risk losing access to important health care services provided by Kansas hospitals and other health care providers. The ability of our 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 effects of these policy decisions through conversations with Kansas health care providers. Thanks to NVCH Administrator Stan Regehr for hosting my visit.

2014 Farm Bill Commodity Policies
I learned this week that USDA has unveiled the new 2014 Farm Bill commodity policies. The Farm Bill gives landowners a one-time choice to update their FSA yields and reallocate their base acres to better reflect recent plantings. The next decision for farmers will be between the new commodity policies created in the 2014 Farm Bill – Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC). Economists and farm policy experts strongly encourage farmers to educate themselves before choosing between PLC and ARC. Given this decision is for the duration of the Farm Bill, I believe it is especially important to take the time necessary to understand how the policies will work on your individual farm. Farmers should be given plenty of time as sign-up won’t close for a number of months, so the process is only just beginning.

Kansas State University has developed a computer decision aid to help farmers decide on the best option for them. It may be downloaded from the K-State Ag Manager website. Kansas is lucky to have some of the best farm policy experts in the nation residing in our state. I encourage farmers to utilize K-State educational material, local extension services, crop insurance agents, and other experts as they decide which farm policy best fits their operation. 

Town Hall Meeting in Barton County
As a part of my Kansas Listening Tour, I stopped in Barton County Wednesday at Golden Belt Cinema 6. It was great to see this new theatre that attracts local residents to downtown – it might have been my first town hall where I was greeted with offers of popcorn and pop. I enjoyed seeing about 40 local residents as well as some from Hutchinson and Hoisington. The conversation was largely focused on dysfunction of the United States Senate. Other topics included representing rural America in our nation’s capital, immigration reform and the President’s pending executive action on illegal immigrants. Thanks to Chad Somers for letting us gather at his Golden Belt and to Jan Peters and the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development team for promoting and hosting the meeting.

Visiting ADR, Inc. in Wichita
Thursday afternoon, I traveled to Wichita and visited ADR, Inc., a media production and printing firm. With an aviation centered but diversifying client base, it was exciting to see how over the course of more than 30 years years ADR employees have embraced new technologies—including digital media and e-learning—to meet evolving customer needs. Its 37 employees work on 600-800 jobs per day and 150 print jobs are shipped daily.

Thanks to Founders/Owners Jim and Grace Rishel and CEO Patrick Tuttle (pictured with me below) for leading the tour. For the last three years, Patrick has served as chairman of the Wichita Aero Club. He works tirelessly to further the club’s mission of promoting interest in aviation combined with providing a forum that focuses on industry issues and achievements.

Encouraging STEM Education through Aviation
Thursday, I attended the second annual Kansas Aviation Expo. Organized by the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE), the week-long event is designed to inspire interest in one of our state’s great industries to the nearly 1,000 high school and college-aged students in attendance. I enjoyed visiting with a number of future aviation leaders and learning more about educational and vocational programs, including an flying tour across Kansas. To keep Kansas’ aviation industry strong, we need not only a growing and prosperous economy but also a proactive effort to encourage young people to pursue a career and education in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field and to explain the value of STEM education both for their own lives and for the future of our country. It was encouraging to see that effort well underway last night. Thanks to KCAE President Brian Youngers and the entire board for volunteering their time to put on this event. Thanks also to Kansas Department of Transportation Aviation Director Jesse Romo for inviting me to attend. 

At the expo, I caught up with KSN's Chris Arnold to discuss a number of issues facing our nation and our state. Click the link below to listen to our conversation.

Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act
On Friday, President Obama signed into law the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act. I introduced this legislation in the Senate, and now that it is law, proper implementation is vital to the quality of life for Native Americans. For too long, the IRS has conducted targeted audits of Tribal governments for the services provided to their members. The new law requires the audits to stop until IRS officials responsible for tribes are properly educated and trained in matters of Indian law and the federal-Tribal relationship. Furthermore, the law increases collaboration with Tribal leaders by establishing an advisory committee within the Treasury Department to navigate any ambiguities. These measures will alleviate the burdens currently imposed on Tribal governments and enable them to provide for their peoples as they see fit. I am eager for President Obama to begin implementation immediately.

Anniversary of Sec. Kerry signing UN Arms Trade Treaty
The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), signed by Secretary of State John Kerry on September 25, 2013, has officially been ratified by the 50 nations required to come into force. On Thursday, the first anniversary of Secretary Kerry’s signature, I joined Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma in calling on the Obama Administration to voice our concerns regarding the treaty’s implementation.

The preparatory process for the First Conference of State Parties (CSP) to the ATT, a gathering of supporters to craft the treaty’s execution, begins this week in Mexico. Regrettably, the government of Mexico has handed control over this process to the gun control advocacy group Control Arms, who subsequently is denying access to any organization critical of the ATT, including the Heritage Foundation and National Rifle Association. Previously, the Obama Administration praised the free participation of outside organizations in the ATT negotiations process, but this unprecedented exclusion of dissenting voices is one more example that free speech only extends to those groups who support a preferred ideology. If the ATT is amended as Control Arms and the government of Mexico desires, our worst fears about the treaty’s impact on our Second Amendment rights would be realized.

Without the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate, the United States cannot ratify the ATT. And due to the clear and continued threats to our Second Amendment freedoms, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Senate remains opposed to ratification. Knowing this, the Obama Administration has continued to disregard the Senate’s important role and taken steps behind the scenes to aid the implementation process. It is my hope that the Administration will step up to the plate and protest the manner in which the CSP process is being conducted and insist that all future meetings and negotiations be free and open to any civil society organizations.

Winfield Rubbermaid Plant
Friday afternoon, I had an informative tour of the Rubbermaid plant in Winfield. This facility has more than 1,000 employees and has continued to grow despite tough economic times. The plant built a new warehouse in 2012 that spans 500,000 square feet and nearly doubled their workforce. During my visit, we discussed the need for affordable housing in Winfield and the growing need for technical skilled employees. Thanks to Winfield Rubbermaid Plant Representatives Michael Grant, Mark Johnson, Austin Rising, Brandi Biddle for coordinating my visit.

Conway Springs Fall Festival Parade
I enjoyed visiting with Conway Springs-area residents on Saturday and participating in the community’s Fall Festival parade. It was helpful to hear what residents had on their minds and get a good dose of Kansas common sense. Thanks to local veterinarian Dr. Rick Cox for driving me and to Charles and Lucille Ellis for loaning their Mustang convertible. Thanks also to Kathy Barkley and Evelyn Osner for coordinating my attendance.

Prior to the parade, I met with World War II Veteran Eldon Raines and Vietnam War Veteran Bill Wiseley. Thank you for your distinguished service to our country. I appreciate First Christian Church Pastor Bill Nestelroad for arranging this special opportunity.

Now Accepting Spring 2015 Internship Applications
I am now accepting applications for paid congressional internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for spring 2015. An internship in my office – either legislative or communications – provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. Communications internships offer an intern the chance to learn about how political communications and the legislative process intersect, and gain practical knowledge about the inner workings of a fast-paced press office.

The application deadline for spring 2015 is November 1, 2014. Applications may be obtained and completed under the “Services” section of my website at www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation, and a cover letter explaining their interest in public service and addressing a policy issue of personal importance and a suggested recommendation to resolve that issue. Please submit required materials to: internships@moran.senate.gov.

Kansans in the Office
National Association of Federally Impacted Schools
Keith Mispagel of Fort Leavenworth
Corbin Witt of Junction City
Janet Christian of Junction City

National Association of Wheat Growers
David Schemm of Sharon Springs

National Home Infusion Association
Eric Steen of Olathe

Northwest Mutual
John Goodwin of Mission Hills

Soldier for Life
Ken Canfield of Overland Park

Capitol Tour
Ryan Raybould of Leawood
Greg Waters of Greensburg
Lisa Waters of Greensburg
Jerry Wollesen of Lincoln
Lleanna Wollesen of Lincoln
Kelly Adams of Manhattan
Therese Adams of Manhattan
Stephen Graves of Manhattan
Nancy Graves of Manhattan
Jonathan Graves of Manhattan
Francis Mahoney of Stockton

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. 

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking 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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