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.

Continuing Resolution
The Senate this week passed its version of the continuing resolution (CR) — a bill to fund the government through December 11, 2015. The CR was also passed by the House and is now on the President’s desk awaiting his signature.

Helping Vets Exposed to Toxic Substances
On Tuesday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee conducted a hearing regarding veterans’ exposure to toxic substances and the VA’s response. A critical component to understanding the effects of toxic exposure is studying the potential long-term, generational impacts on the children and grandchildren who may suffer from health conditions that are a result of the exposure. In January, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and I introduced the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 (S. 901), which would instruct the VA to conduct research on the effects of veterans’ exposure on their descendants. Currently, many of the symptoms from toxic exposure are misdiagnosed in descendants of veterans because of a lack of understanding and scientific proof. However, veterans have observed increased levels of cancers, birth defects, and other conditions in their subsequent generations. The Toxic Exposure Research Act would play a vital role in ensuring the VA cares for those whose health conditions and illnesses are the result of exposure to toxic substances – whether it be Agent Orange in Vietnam or burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the VA opposes this legislation even though the Institute of Medicine has consistently reported that research on this topic is insufficient, and further studies should be conducted. During the hearing, I had the opportunity to question VA officials regarding their opposition to this research, despite their acknowledgement that additional research would help substantiate potential toxic exposure impacts on family members and claims that could lead to deserved benefits. American soldiers who volunteered to serve our nation did not anticipate that their service could have long-term, negative impacts on the health of their children and grandchildren.

Getting the VA to Work for Veterans
On Wednesday I met with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Linda Halliday to discuss recent reports released by the OIG. These disturbing reports reveal the misuse and abuse of funds, as well as show that hundreds of thousands of veterans died waiting for their health care benefits claims to be answered due to mismanagement. I am eager to see the VA take action and implement the OIG’s recommendations to address these intolerable breaches of trust. The VA must hold those responsible accountable and ensure our nation has a VA worthy of our veterans’ service.

Legislation to Improve Fort Scott National Historic Site
I introduced legislation this week to improve the Fort Scott National Historic Site to make certain our state and nation’s history will be kept alive for the next generation. The bill would allow the care of the Lunette Blair Civil War Block House to be transferred to the National Park Service (NPS), as well as modify the site’s boundaries so future improvements could be made to enrich the quality of visitors’ experiences. In working with the individuals who manage the site, I learned it lacks an adequate public emergency shelter. Specifically, they need a place to shelter school children who regularly visit in case of severe weather. The buildings in the site’s new boundaries could also be used for other functions, such as an on-site storage area for artifacts that currently are stored outside the community due to space limitations or an educational center for visitors and local schools.

If the boundaries of the site are moved, the site would still have to be awarded funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to acquire the new land and buildings in question. The new land and buildings, including the Lunette Blair, could also be donated to the site. From American expansion westward into the new frontier to ‘Bleeding Kansas’ and the Civil War, Fort Scott has a rich history that is underscored by the site. It deserves to be protected for the benefit of all Kansans. Click here to learn more.

Protecting the Safety of Kansans
Last week the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security held a hearing on the Pipeline Safety Act, which authorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) federal pipeline safety programs. The hearing provided an opportunity to highlight the PHMSA’s failures in recent years to adequately inspect underground gas storage facilities. I sponsor the Underground Gas Storage Facility Safety Act (S. 1768), which would allow states to work with the Department of Transportation to monitor the wellbores in interstate underground gas storage facilities. The safety of Kansans is my top priority and we all deserve to know that our homes and businesses are being protected.

Proposal for Criminal Justice Reform Legislation Has Broad Support
This week, a bipartisan group of senators announced a legislative proposal to reform our criminal justice system. This is welcome news. I am a supporter of sentencing reform, and believe our nation must reconsider how the justice system treats non-violent offenders. Earlier this year, I sponsored legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, the Smarter Sentencing Act, which serves as the foundation for several of the provisions found in this new proposal. A fair and effective criminal justice system is critical to protecting our communities and upholding core American values. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to take action on this important legislation. 

Expressing Frustration with New EPA Water Rules
This week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing to review the Army Corps of Engineers’ participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) development of the new regulatory definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). It is disturbing to learn that input from the Army Corps of Engineers was ignored by the administration in their latest regulation to expand the definition of WOTUS.

This news comes along with the EPA’s dismissal of the concerns voiced by Americans across the country, and selective enforcement of a U.S. District Court’s order to halt implementation of the rule. Never has the disconnect between Washington and Kansas been more evident than with this attempt by the EPA to run roughshod over whoever and whatever obstacle stands in its way. Unfortunately, this rule will bring millions of privately held acres under EPA’s regulatory control, creating burdens and costs for producers that threaten their very livelihood. Click here to learn more.

Manhattan Konza Rotary Club
I enjoyed attending a Manhattan Konza Rotary Club meeting on Friday. The club is about 100 members strong and their signature project is “Water Matters Day” – an event at the Manhattan City Park Pool that raises money to help citizens in small communities across our state rebuild their own water systems in partnership with the State of Kansas.

The keynote speaker was Rotary International District Governor John Donovan who proudly represents the Leavenworth Rotary Club. John spent more than 20 years in the Army and we are grateful for his service to our nation. Thanks to Konza Chapter President Lucy Williams for the warm welcome and her leadership. Click here to learn more about “Water Matters Day.” 

Conversations in Southeast Kansas
This weekend, Pittsburg State University (PSU) Gorillas defeated the Missouri Western Griffons in their homecoming celebration. The Pittsburg community turned out in large numbers for the annual parade. Thanks to Ken Brock and Kevin Mitchelson for providing my parade transportation. It was great to visit with a number of Kansans on campus during Gorilla Fest and visit with PSU President Steve Scott. Thanks to Dr. Steve Scott, his wife Cathy and the university community for their hospitality.

Now Accepting Spring 2016 Internship Applications
I am now accepting applications for paid congressional internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for spring 2016. 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 2016 is October 30, 2015. 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
Kathleen Lippert of Topeka
Dr. Don Tillman of Hays
Jon Schreider of Shawnee

Kansas National Education Association
Ruth Goff of Kansas City
Sandra Walker of Lawrence
Rhonda Goddard of Penokee

Benedictine College
President Stephen Minnis of Atchison

Westar Energy
Mark Schreiber of Topeka
Laura Lutz of Topeka

Sunflower Electric
Clare Gustin of Hays

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Eric Robinson of Wichita

Ft. Riley Schools
Corbin Witt of Ft. Riley

Ft. Leavenworth Schools

Keith Mispagel of Ft. Leavenworth

Royal Valley USD
John Rundle of Mayetta

ACS Cancer Action Network
Reagan Cussimanio of Olathe
Gaybyrne Garrett of Merriam
Sue Jirkovsky-Landers of Tecumseh
James Miksch of Prairie Village
Jordan Rickabaugh of Lawrence
Jerry Siever of Wichita
Meghan Urwin of Sublette
Randy Linduff of Shawnee

Christopher Tarpey of Overland Park

American Academy of Dermatology Association
John Adams of Manhattan
Robert Durst of Topeka

Livestock Marketing Association
Mark McKee of Parsons
Beverly McKee of Parsons
Dan Harris of Holton
Frank Seidel of LaCrosse
Miranda Seidel of LaCrosse
Dave Kay of LaCrosse
Mark Mackey of Bucyrus

Midge Grinstead of Lawrence
Tami Johnson of Coffeyville
Gayle Christie of Ellinwood

The Farm Team
Joe Kejr of Salina

Kansas Wheat Association
Daniel Heady of Manhattan

United Fresh Produce Association
Amy Droegemeier of De Soto

Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics
Dr. Allen Featherstone of Manhattan

American Veterinary Medical Association
Dr. Vern Otte of Leawood

Capitol Tour
Susan Lynn of Iola
Brian Wolfe of Iola
Charles Grant of Edwardsville
Judy Grant of Edwardsville
John Elliott of Overland Park
Kirara Elliott of Overland Park
Karen Grossman of Larned
Richard Wilson of Russell
Greg Bauer of Great Bend
Susan Bauer of Great Bend
Robert Hutchison of Kansas City
Kimberlee Hutchison of Kansas City
Donald Crowe of Lawrence
Karen Crowe of Lawrence

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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