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.
The President’s Budget Continues Fiscal Irresponsibility
This week, President Obama delivered his fiscal year 2016 budget to Congress. With complete disregard for the message sent by the American people in November, the proposal includes a staggering $2.1 trillion in new tax increases and would add $8.5 trillion to the national debt.
I will examine and evaluate the specific provisions of the President’s proposal, and I will work to shape a federal budget that funds the government’s responsibilities while promoting a job-creating environment. Especially when resources are scarce with an increasingly dangerous world, we must better prioritize spending to make certain our economy is growing and our citizens are well protected. American safety and prosperity calls for serious policy – unfortunately, the President’s plan falls well short.
VA Budget Request Threatens Choice Act
Just six months after the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) was signed into law – and only three months after Choice Cards began being mailed to veterans – the VA’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request released this week proposes reallocating the law’s emergency funds that are solely meant to pay for veteran health care to support other “investments in the VA System priorities.” This week I vented my frustration on the Senate floor with what I see as the Department of Veterans Affairs continuing to overlook what is in the best interest of veterans.
When Congress came together on a bipartisan basis to pass the Choice Act, we told veterans they would now have a choice when it comes to their health care – that many would have the option of seeing their local physician. I believe the VA’s assertion that veterans are using the Choice Program at a lower rate than anticipated because they prefer being treated by the VA could not be farther from the truth. A new national poll released this week by Concerned Veterans for America found that 88 percent of veterans believe the VA needs to increase healthcare choices for veterans including access to their local community providers.
Thousands of veterans, including Kansans who have shared their stories with me, are struggling to access care through the Choice Act primarily because of VA’s flawed implementation and interpretation of the law. These errors include delays in mailing out Choice Cards, disqualifying veterans who should be eligible without explanation, and dramatically narrowing the scope of veterans who can use these funds by unreasonably calculating how far a veteran lives from a VA medical facility, not whether that facility can actually provide the medical services a veteran needs.
These issues must be fixed. I’ve introduced legislation, the Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 (S. 207), requiring the VA to utilize its authorities, including the Choice Act, to offer community care to veterans who are currently unable to receive the healthcare services they need from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they live. By choosing to not use their authorities, the VA is forcing many rural Kansas veterans to travel hours to access care they could receive through the Choice Act in their communities – or go without care altogether.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, I spoke with Neil Cavuto on Fox News Channel on Wednesday about how I will work to make certain the VA puts the needs of veterans before their own self-interest. These funds must benefit those they were intended to serve – our nation’s veterans. Click here to see my floor speech. Click here to see my interview on Fox News with Neil Cavuto.
Clay Hunt Legislation Heads to President’s Desk
I am pleased the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act this week. As a sponsor of this bill and a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Member, I am proud this legislation will soon be signed into law.
The average suicide rate among veterans is a staggering 22 deaths each day. This bill will help develop a VA system capable of offering first-rate mental health care services, as well as utilize the expertise of outside organizations to provide support for those returning home and struggling with the invisible wounds of war. I can think of no better way to honor the memory of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28.
During a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in last fall, I had the opportunity to learn about his compelling story of sacrifice for our country and struggle with the VA from Clay’s mom, Susan Selke. No mother, father or family member should suffer with the loss of their loved one because of failures in the VA health care system. President Obama should take quick action in signing this important legislation so the VA has the ability to care for our suffering service members who are not receiving the care that they need. Click here to learn more.
Representing Kansas Aviation on Capitol Hill
I was selected to serve as a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security for the 114th Congress. This subcommittee oversees civil aviation, with oversight responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Specifically, the subcommittee monitors FAA’s grant making efforts in funding airport infrastructure projects and upgrades to air traffic control facilities, in addition to its jurisdiction over domestic aviation security, which includes the majority of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workforce.
General aviation is the largest industry in Kansas, generating nearly $3 billion in annual exports and producing 40 percent of all general aviation planes. For many individuals and businesses in rural Kansas, it is also the most reliable means of connecting with the rest of the world. I look forward to representing Kansans on this important subcommittee and working to ensure a safer and more efficient air traffic system that will allow the aviation industry to continue to grow and thrive in our great state. Click here to learn more.
Hosting Hearing on Data Breach Notification and Data Security
On Thursday, I convened my first hearing as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security in the 114th Congress. The hearing was focused on the very timely and pressing issue of protecting Americans from data security breaches and how best to notify consumers in the event of a breach. For more than a decade, Congress has been contemplating issues surrounding data security and data breach notification. Recent high-profile data breaches, including what experts are calling the “largest health care data breach in history” that occurred on the eve of the hearing, are the latest examples that highlight the ongoing and serious cyber threats that American businesses and consumers face.
In the decade since Congress held its first hearings examining data security, no consensus has been reached on the development of national data security and data breach notification standards. As a result, states have taken on this task by developing their own standards. As of today, businesses are subject to a patchwork of more than 50 different state, district and territory laws that determine how businesses must notify consumers in the event of a breach incident. In addition, 12 states have enacted laws regarding data security practices. This spectrum of laws is complicated for businesses and consumers, especially because many of our nation’s companies operate in multiple states and so much of our nation’s businesses is conducted online.
Our expert panel of witnesses mostly agreed that a strong national data breach notification standard would give consumers the ability to take measures to protect themselves from financial harm or identity theft. This hearing helped my colleagues and me gain a better understanding of how to develop such a standard to help both companies and consumers when they face data security challenges. Many experts named 2014 the “Year of the Data Breach.” I am hopeful that this hearing will help Congress make 2015 the “Year of the Data Breach Notification Legislation.” To view a video of the hearing, please click here. To read a copy of my opening statement, please click here.
National Cotton Council Annual Meeting
Nearly 500 people from across the nation came together this week to talk about issues important to the cotton industry. I had the opportunity to give the keynote address to the National Cotton Council Annual conference, which included every segment of the cotton industry from cotton farmers to textile manufactures. The cotton industry remains an important part of our nation and our economy. Farmers planted over 30,000 acres of cotton in Kansas last year. Our state is also home to four cotton gins and a cotton warehouse. I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit with the large number of Kansans involved in the industry who attended the meeting this week.
Like every commodity, the cotton industry has challenges unique to them. However, most of the concerns I heard, such as low crop prices, international trade barriers, overregulation by the federal government, and the need for strong support of agriculture research, are concerns shared by farmers across Kansas and the nation. I appreciated the invitation to address the conference. As chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I look forward to working to make sure our policies are helping, not harming, our agriculture industry. And that we continue to make certain that we give our farmers the opportunity to make a living and pass on their special way of life and agriculture heritage to the next generation.
Kansas Health Care Providers Visit Capitol Hill
Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and medical students were in Washington for the National Rural Health Association’s 26th Annual Rural Health Policy Institute. This event brings more than 400 rural health professionals and advocates to the nation's capital — the largest rural advocacy event of the year. It was a pleasure to meet Eastin Casey of Natoma, Tyler Egbert of McCune and Catie Paliwoda of Axtel who are in their first year of medical school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. They have an interest in practicing medicine in a rural community. I wish them the best in their studies and am pleased they are considering practicing medicine in Kansas.
Applications Available for Summer 2015 Internships
I am currently accepting internship applications for my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for summer 2015. An internship, either legislative or communications, provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns in Washington, D.C., 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. Interns based in Kansas will focus on constituent services.
The application deadline is Friday, March 6, 2015. Application forms are available under the ‘Services’ section of my website at https://www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation and a cover letter explaining the applicant’s interest in public service and goals of serving as an intern. Please submit required materials to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kansans in the Office
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area
Julie McPike of Lawrence
Jody Ladd Craig of Leawood
Kansas Narcotics Officers Association
Karrina Brasser of Maize
Tim Eldredge of Belleville
Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center
Michael Utz of Garden City
Kansas Independent College Association
Matt Lindsey of Topeka
Hal Hoxie of McPherson
Sister Diane Steele of Leavenworth
Kansas Association of School Boards
Frank Henderson of Topeka
Amy Martin of Overland Park
Tom Krebs of Topeka
Judy Lair of Piqua
Don Shimkus of Oxford
Darren Reese of Arkansas City
Janet Sprecker of Derby
Gail Billman of Altamont
Rod Stewart of Washington
Gina McGowan of Ellsworth
Lori Blake of Assaria
Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority
Shannon Oury of Lawrence
National Sorghum Producers
Larry Dahlsten of Lindsborg
Garrett Kays of Weir
Angela Stone of Garden City
Greg Stone of Garden City
Kent Winters of Mount Hope
Dan Atkisson of Stockton
Kelsey Baker of Scott City
Casey Crossland of Wakeeney
Nathan of Riley
Craig Poore of Alton
Lance Russell of Hays
Jessie Wyrill of Kirwin
Jesse McCurry of Colwich
Kendall Hodgson of Little River
Earl Roemer of Scott City
Online Lenders Alliance
Mike Sinatra of Prairie Village
Clint Harris of Prairie Village
Holly Rohleder of Lenexa
Kansas Hospital Association
Chad Austin of Topeka
Tom Bell of Salina
Robert Hines of Wichita
Jan Kemmerer of Beloit
Michael Kennedy of Kansas City
Roger Masse of Ellsworth
Rob Monical of McPherson
Jodi Schmidt of Kansas City
George Stover of Lyons
Julee Thompson of Olathe
Catherine Palicuada of Axtell
Eastin Casey of Natoma
Tyler Egbert of McCune
Landon Fulmer of Lawrence
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America
Jamie Katz of Olathe
Megan Clark of Olathe
Katie Fooshee of Peabody
Mackenzie Young of Peabody
Local Taxpayer Advocate
Traci Wilnerd of Wichita
Bill Cobb of Prairie Village
Jeremy Stohs of Shawnee
Jim Grocholski of Wichita
William Overbey of Topeka
U.S. Custom Harvesters
Taff Hughes of Ellinwood
Allie Devine of Topeka
Jim Deibert of Colby
The National Treasury Employees Union
David Foran of Kansas City
Geoff Coventry of Overland Park
Wichita Public Schools Magnet Programs
Kimberly Johnson Burkhalter of Wichita
Nikkie Zdrojewski of Wichita
John Gillcrist of Overland Park
Ross Draney of Derby
National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research
Ting Xie of Kansas City
Jeff Tauscher of Shawnee
Derek Kreifels of Roeland Park
Melanie Kreifels of Roeland Park
Danny Southerland of Shawnee
Mary Southerland of Shawnee
Matthew Miller of Shawnee
Jennifer Miller of Shawnee
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,
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