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. I wish you and your families safe travels during this holiday season. The Senate is out of session and I’m back in Kansas. Here's a look out of my office window at the Christmas lights decorating Union Station here in Washington.
Voting Against Omnibus Spending Bill
I voted against the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill known as the omnibus on Friday because it allows the Obama Administration’s pattern of sidestepping Congress to enact flawed policy to continue on, unchecked. A successful negotiation is about give and take and should result in a balanced compromise. This deal fails to include important restrictions – like allowing funds to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species and upholding the flawed Waters of the United States rule – that increase the cost of doing business and result in higher electricity costs for Kansans. Instead, it gives the president and Congressional Democrats exactly what they wanted – increased spending without accountability. Congress must uphold its responsibility to protect American families by reining in the executive branch. Click here to hear me discuss this with WIBW 580 AM's Greg Akagi.
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill Puts Food Safety, Common Sense First
As part of the omnibus, the agriculture appropriations bill prioritizes funding and directs policy within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food & Drug Administration. This year, as Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, I’ve worked to make certain our bill is helpful to Kansas farmers and ranchers, funds new and ongoing research at our universities, supports rural development initiatives that benefit our communities, and rolls back laws and regulations that hinder our economy. I believe the agriculture appropriations bill produced by my subcommittee readily meets these goals.
The bill increases funding for food and agriculture research. The research taking place at USDA and our universities is important to make certain our farmers and ranchers remain on the cutting edge of agriculture production. It also increased funding for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition (McGovern-Dole) development program. In the bill, farm policy and crop insurance are protected, despite major pressure from critics in Washington who seek to gut the programs. Additionally, voluntary conservation programs that are supported by landowners are funded through the agriculture bill.
My bill also directs the USDA and HHS to stick solely to sound nutritional science when developing the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and to reject the ill-advised recommendations from the advisory committee based on factors outside of the committee’s expertise, such as environmental sustainability. The bill also repeals the beef and pork portions of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law that would have resulted in more than a billion dollars of retaliatory tariffs being applied to our exports to Canada and Mexico before the end of the year. Resolving this issue was critical not only to our agricultural producers, but also to the entire U.S. economy, which would have suffered had the retaliatory tariffs been put into place.
Unlike a Farm Bill or many other pieces of legislation, an agriculture appropriations bill is written and passed each year. This gives me the ability to oversee and directly influence USDA and FDA on an annual basis. As we begin writing a new bill next year, I’ll be continually working with the departments and agencies involved to be sure Kansas priorities are addressed.
Demanding Action at the Robert J. Dole VA in Wichita
I was troubled to learn about recent allegations of harassment and misconduct against personnel at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center by the KU School of Medicine-Wichita surgical trainees. My attempts to learn what actions the VA has taken in response to these allegations have resulted in mixed messages and inconsistencies, both from the Wichita VA and the VA Central Office. I sent a letter on Wednesday to VA Secretary McDonald, calling for detailed and specific answers regarding the timeline of events and the actions taken by the VA in response to the allegations. In addition to a letter, I will be meeting with officials at the Wichita VA later this month to discuss the allegations and the subsequent investigation.
We must make certain those who came forward to shed light on their experiences are protected and that care for veterans has not been impacted by these potential wrongdoings. A thorough investigation for individuals who have misbehaved should be the expectation, not the exception. Veterans deserve a VA worthy of their service, and that includes a safe working environment for those who serve them. Click here to read my letter to VA Secretary McDonald.
Calling on President Obama to Reconsider GITMO Proposal
I joined a bipartisan coalition of city, county, state and federal elected office holders that represent Leavenworth County in calling on President Obama to bear in mind the concerns and thoughts of the citizens of Kansas before he considers transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. I am committed to supporting our military personnel in Kansas and across the country, particularly against this administration’s unlawful pursuit. The closing of GITMO shouldn’t happen without Congressional approval and certainly shouldn’t be done through an executive order. Click here to view the letter.
GAO Report Finds EPA Illegally Promoted Flawed WOTUS Rule
A Government Accountability Office report that came out this week confirms what many of us have been saying for some time – the EPA is clearly willing to do whatever is necessary to implement the “Waters of the United States” rule despite the overwhelming objections voiced by stakeholders. Click here to hear me discuss this with Kansas Ag Network’s Greg Akagi. Click here to read the New York Times reporting on this topic.
Visiting Kansas Health Care Facilities
I had the opportunity to visit several health care facilities that provide quality care to Kansans this week. Kansans’ access to quality health care services determines whether they can remain in the communities they call home and whether their children can return to raise families of their own.
First Care Clinic in Hays – I visited First Care Clinic (FCC) in Hays and met with CEO Bryan Brady. We discussed the importance of health care providers receiving appropriate reimbursements for the care they provide in order to preserve medical access in rural areas. FCC is unique from other medical providers in its area because it provides general medical, dentistry, and mental health services to patients all in the same facility. FCC provides these services to patients of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay. This innovative clinic improves health outcomes for medically underserved patients and saves the health care system money by preventing illness and reducing costly emergency room visits.
Lindsborg Community Hospital – I visited Lindsborg Community Hospital (LCH) to visit with Administrator Larry Van Der Wege and his team. LCH is a general medical and surgical hospital affiliated with Salina Regional Health Center. Their mission is “. . . caring for the health of the Smoky Valley communities.” I was able to see LCH’s upgraded medical equipment and visit with staff about how the hospital is enhancing the mental health services it provides for the community. We discussed the need for reasonable flexibility from the federal government for so that rural hospitals can provide a full range of services to their communities. The conversation also emphasized demonstrating meaningful use of electronic medical records under CMS regulations.
Cloud County Health Center – I visited Cloud County Health Center (CCHC), a Critical Access Hospital, in Concordia this week. I met with members of the hospital’s Board of Trustees, CEO Cherri Waites, and hospital staff to discuss CCHC’s efforts to address the health care needs of the Concordia community and future plans for the hospital. We toured the hospital where significant improvements are being made including the purchase and installation of new radiology equipment.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, it is useful for me to visit these and other Kansas health facilities to learn more about how providers utilize resources to care for patients, many of whom are spread across large areas of our state.
Visiting the Kansas School for the Deaf
On my way to Washington, D.C. on Monday, I stopped in Olathe to tour the Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD). KSD students receive comprehensive, bilingual educational programing in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English. The school provides a least restrictive, center-based educational environment for deaf and hard of hearing students from pre-school through high school. This visit was a valuable opportunity for me to learn about the unique challenges many deaf and hard of hearing children face in developing language skills and engaging in learning from an early age. In spite of these challenges, KSD students take full advantage of the learning opportunities before them and the dedicated faculty at KSD work each day to prepare them for a bright future. Thanks to Superintendent Madeleine Burkindine, Assistant Superintendent Luanne Barron, Interpreter Lori Colwell, Information Officer Sue Gamble and Outreach Coordinator Joan Macy for hosting me and leading my tour.
Senate Passes the Pilots’ Bill of Rights 2
I was pleased the Senate put aside partisan politics and unanimously passed common-sense legislation. The Pilots' Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2), S. 571, is among the most widely supported bills in Congress and represents a strong step toward protecting pilots and our general aviation industry. As a co-sponsor of PBOR2, I have long recognized the vital role pilots play in our Kansas communities and have witnessed the increasing regulatory burden placed on them. Over the past 10 years, 60,000 pilots have left the general aviation industry, all the while, the cost of aircraft has risen dramatically and shipments are near an all-time low. General aviation is vital not only to Kansas, but to the national economy, and we must ensure our policies create an environment that encourages growth and success, and doesn’t hamper it.
PBOR2 would provide relief by expanding the Third Class Medical exemption for recreational pilots while also improving safety and health awareness for pilots beyond current FAA requirements. In addition, S. 571 represents a significant improvement in the due process rights and liability protections for volunteer pilots by ensuring certificate holders have the right to appeal FAA decisions through a new, merit-based trial in Federal Court. This important legislation now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for their consideration. Click here to learn more.
Kansas Listening Tour Stop in Franklin County
I hosted a Kansas Listening Tour stop in Wellsville this week with more than 30 area residents. We discussed the VA and access to health care for veterans, taxes, education, the Second Amendment and immigration. Thanks to Thanks to Mayor Bill Lytle and the City of Wellsville for hosting. Thanks also to Rep. Kevin Jones, USD 289 Superintendent Jerry Henn, Ottawa City Commissioner Shawn Dickinson and his wife Megan, Ottawa City Commissioner Sara Caylor, and Ottawa City Manager Richard Nienstedt for stopping by.
Kansans in the Office
Allie Devine of Topeka
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,
- (522.8 KBs)
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